Drupal,the open source content management system that we use almost exclusively for building web sites, is now being used to run the official White House web site, whitehouse.gov. For the general public this will mean little as they won’t see any visible difference in the site. But it’s great news for us, the Drupal community and the open source movement as a whole. But it’s also an interesting political statement by the current administration in embracing an opens source platform over a commercial system.
It’s good for us because it lends authority to our choice of systems. While we have no doubts that Drupal is a robust and flexible platform that can be used to build just about any imaginable site, current and potential clients will more easily accept Drupal as a quality solution (perhaps even if they don’t agree with the policies of the current government). As quoted in the AP article:
“We now have a technology platform to get more and more voices on the site,” White House new media director Macon Phillips told The Associated Press hours before the new site went live on Saturday. “This is state-of-the-art technology and the government is a participant in it.”
That’s quite an endorsement. In case you’re interested, Dries Buytaert, the founder of the Drupal project keeps a pretty current list of other high visibility Drupal sites.
The current government’s use of Drupal lends considerable credibility to the efforts of the Drupal community as a whole. Drupal has made tremendous advances in the last few years, and the next major release will again move the system out in front of the pack. These achievements have been largely accomplished by hours and hours of volunteer efforts by many developers around the world.
Finally, using Drupal for one of the most visible government web sites indicates a confidence that the open source model will make the site more secure, that the collaborative process of hundreds of developers will help the site remain on top of the tech wave rather than being drowned, and will encourage other government entities to move in that direction.
Tim O’Reilly has some more specific thoughts on the use of open source by the government.