October 25, 2009 in Nation/World

Whitehouse.gov code open to public

Philip Elliott Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – A programming overhaul of the White House’s Web site has set the tech world abuzz. For low-techies, it’s a snooze – you won’t notice a thing.

The online-savvy administration on Saturday switched to open-source code for www.whitehouse.gov – meaning the programming language is written in public view, available for public use and 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 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.”

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.

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