[LINK] Drupal for whitehouse.gov

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Oct 26 15:45:59 AEDT 2009

White House switches to open source

>From AP, October 26, 2009 - 10:56AM 

A programming overhaul of the White House's website has set the tech 
world abuzz. 

The online-savvy administration switched to open-source code (Drupal) for 
http://www.whitehouse.gov — meaning the programming language is written 
in public view, available for public use and able for people to edit.

"We now have a technology platform to get more and more voices on the 
site," White House new media director Macon Phillips said hours before 
the new site went live on Saturday. 

"This is state-of-the-art technology and the government is a participant 
in it."

White House officials described the change as similar to rebuilding the 
foundation of a building without changing the street-level appearance of 
the facade. 

It was expected to make the White House site more secure — and the same 
could be true for other administration sites in the future.

"Security is fundamentally built into the development process because the 
community is made up of people from all across the world, and they look 
at the source code from the very start of the process until it's deployed 
and after," said Terri Molini of Open Source for America, an interest 
group that has pushed for more such programs.

Having the public write code may seem like a security risk, but it's just 
the opposite, experts inside and outside the government argued. 

Because programmers collaborate to find errors or opportunities to 
exploit web code, the final product is therefore more secure.

For instance, instead of a dozen administration programmers trying to 
find errors, thousands of programmers online constantly are refining the 
programs and finding potential pitfalls.

It will be a much faster way to change the programming behind the 
website. When the model was owned solely by the government, federal 
contractors would have to work through the reams of code to troubleshoot 
it or upgrade it. Now, it can be done in the matter of days and free to 

Obama's team, which harnessed the web to win an electoral landslide in 
2008 and raise millions, has been working toward the shift since it took 
office January 20 with a White House site based on technology purchased 
at the end of President George W. Bush's administration.

It didn't let the tech-savvy Obama team build the new online platform it 
wanted. For instance, 60,000 watched Obama speech to a joint session of 
Congress on health care. One-third of those stayed online to talk with 
administration officials about the speech. But there are limits; the 
programming used to power that was built for Facebook, the popular social 
networking Web site.

"We want to improve the tools used by thousands of people who come to 
WhiteHouse.gov to engage with White House officials, and each other, in 
meaningful ways," Phillips said.

It's also a nod to Obama's pledge to make government more open and 

Aides joked that it doesn't get more transparent than showing the world a 
code that their website is based on.

Under the open-source model, thousands of people pick it apart 
simultaneously and increase security. It comes more cheaply than computer 
coding designed for a single client, such as the Executive Office of the 
President. It gives programmers around the world a chance to offer 
upgrades, additions or tweaks to existing programs that the White House 
could — or could not — include in daily updates.

Yet the system — known as Drupal — alone won't make it more secure on its 
own, cautioned Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

"The platform that they're moving to is just something to hang other 
things on," he said. "They need to keep up-to-date with the latest 
security patches."

Message sent using MelbPC WebMail Server

More information about the Link mailing list