Obama Drupal-ing around; whitehouse.gov goes open source

President Barack Obama's White House has chosen Drupal to run the whitehouse.gov Web site. They say George W. Bush's old CMS wasn't cutting it any longer. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers resist equating open source with socialism.

By Richi Jennings. October 26, 2009.

Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention mugshot shirts...

    Nancy Scola has the news from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.:

After months of planning ... the White House has ditched the proprietary content management system that had been in place since the days of the Bush Administration in favor of the latest version of the open-source Drupal software, as the AP alluded to. ... The Obama new media team, with a few months of executive branch service ... under their belts, decided they needed a more malleable development environment for the White House web presence.


The ideal new platform would be one where dynamic features like question-and-answer forums, live video streaming, and collaborative tools could work more fluidly together with the site's infrastructure. ... That's something of a victory for the Drupal (not to mention open-source) community.

Arnold Zafra fills in the blanks from A to Z:

General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), the government contractor who built and executed the old White House CMS was tasked to find a more flexible alternative to the old system.


The current WhiteHouse.gov site is now running Drupal in the background. It may not be different from the previous site in terms of look and interface but in time watch it grow ... as it adopts new plugins and tools that will be developed through Drupal. If you’re a Drupal developer, you might want to start creating a useful and innovative tool now. Who knows the White House might actually implement it.

Tim O'Reilly muses on government as platform:

While open source is already widespread throughout the government, its adoption by the White House will almost certainly give permission for much wider uptake. ... When you build a vibrant, extensible platform, others add value to the foundation you establish; when you join such a platform, you get the benefit of all those features you didn't have to develop yourself. ... Giving modifications back to the Drupal community is the next breakthrough announcement that I'll be looking for.


[But] simply using open source software won't slash government IT budgets, at least not right away. What it will do is increase the amount of value we get for our money and the speed with which new technology can be adopted. Features that would have cost millions of dollars and years of development to add will now be rolled into the scope of current contracts.

Drupal go-to guy Dries Buytaert proudly blogs:

Big, exciting news! ... This is a big day for Drupal, and for Open Source in government, and something all of us in the community should be very proud of. ... Drupal is a great fit in terms of President Barack Obama's desire to reduce cost and to act quickly. Drupal's flexibility and modularity enables organizations to build sites quickly at lower cost than most other systems.


This is a clear sign that governments realize that Open Source does not pose additional risks compared to proprietary software, and furthermore, that by moving away from proprietary software, they are not being locked into a particular technology, and that they can benefit from the innovation that is the result of thousands of developers collaborating on Drupal.

British slashdotter Jeff Veit talks security:

Drupal has an excellent history of security. We find holes, fix them and issue patches. There is a security mailing list that anyone can sign up to. You will receive mail on the latest security fixes. Your Drupal installation will tell you when components are out of date, and when there are security updates. It will also email you on a regular basis if you don't care to look at your status, or ignore the status message at the top of the page when you log in as an administrator.


Just like any software, I'm certain that Drupal has as yet undiscovered exploits. What's important is whether they are found and fixed, and we have a good track record of doing this.

Fellow Brit blogger John Naughton wishes:

Particularly interesting is the fact that the team cites greater security as one of the reasons for moving. this suggests a pretty sophisticated — for policymakers, anyway — understanding of the argument that proprietary software is, paradoxically, likely to be less secure than open software.

  Somehow, I can’t see the UK government getting that. Brown & Co still think Microsoft is cutting edge.

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

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