With Twitter’s help, White House ‘bootstraps’ a new digital strategy


Updated to include quote from U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel.

The White House has literally bootrapped its way into the history books.

When U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel and Chief Technology Officer Todd Park unveiled a new federal government digital strategy Wednesday, it was perhaps the first time an executive initiative was released in its entirety in a web-friendly format, rather than the standard .pdf file, a format government often relies on to publish information.


For the alpha geeks paying attention, the most notable footnote about the release was that the White House leveraged Twitter’s popular open source user interface toolkit Bootstrap to publish the document.

Bootstrap, developed by Twitter and made freely available to the public at the social sharing site GitHub, offers a complete package of HTML grid-based, fluid and fixed-width templates, cascading style sheets and javascript tooltips that enable developers to build web-based projects without having to start from scratch. According to GitHub, Bootstrap has been repurposed, or “forked,” 5,766 times to date.

“We must take every possible chance to lead by example. It was imparitive that the strategy document that calls for agencies to embrace use of mobile be easily accessible on any device. That’s why we released the Digital Government Strategy in HTML5,” VanRoekel told FedScoop.

“Rather than designing the document from scratch, we relied heavily on … Bootstrap, which allowed us to save considerable time and effort, while at the same time, providing a user experience we would not otherwise be able to provide. Whether you open the document on your desktop, a tablet, or a mobile device, pixel-by-pixel you’re going to get an incredibly rich experience tailored for how you choose to access it.”

To see noticeable similarities, you can compare Bootstrap’s sample template with the White House’s HTML 5 version here.


While the White House took advantage of Bootstrap, and essentially walked the “shared first” walk often espoused by VanRoekel, this isn’t the first time a federal agency has leveraged Twitter’s developer resource.

After several attempts to create a design from scratch to launch its open source projects directory,, NASA turned to Bootstrap. More recently, NASA used it to build the International Space Apps Challenge website.

According to NASA Open Government team member William Eshagh, it plans to adapt existing sites and continue leveraging it for future use.

“We make it a practice to maximize public investment by seeking out robust frameworks and advanced web technologies, like Bootstrap, to move faster and achieve more by not spending time reinventing formulaic pieces of technology – especially when brilliant open source solutions like Bootstrap are readily available,” Eshagh said via email. “At NASA, rich web technologies like Bootstrap allow us to focus on our mission and carry forward the work of revealing the unknown for the benefit of all humankind.”

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