Why didn’t the government use WordPress for HealthCare.gov?

Oh man, my worlds are colliding. Dylan Byers writes in Politico, asking why the White House didn't choose to use WordPress for building HealthCare.gov. Byers notes that some of the states did, and highlights the benefits of WordPress' (and other CMSs) open-source nature. Byers also interviewed Peter Slutsky, of WordPress.com's VIP services, on the matter.

This is a great, great alarm bell that politicians and bureaucrats may actually see and (if we're lucky) think about next time a huge government web project comes up.

PS: if you want to be in the know about WordPress, government, and open source, start by following Ben Balter. Also follow Joshua Benton, Andrew Nacin, and Yuri Victor to fill out your repertoire of colliding worlds of politics and code.

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9 Comments

  1. While I love the idea of building this solution in WordPress, the issue isn’t the platform used to develop this enterprise system. The issue is the ability (and time) to test end-to-end products built by multiple vendors. These systems are huge. No one company builds it all (nor are they given the chance). So if you build part of it and test it, but have to integrate it to someone else’s authentication or user creation features, and things keep changing, the platform you choose won’t save the day.

  2. Actually, there were some very good reasons for not using WordPress for the front-end of the site. They used Jekyll to serve up static content pages to avoid server load and reduce points of failure. And in fact, the static front-end seems to be the one part the held up to the volume.

  3. What’s interesting is that the team that did the front-end, Development Seed (you know, the part that actually worked), DID contribute much of the code as open source — they even had GitHub repos. Development Seed used to be one of the biggest Drupal shops in the world — they’ve contributed tons of stuff to Drupal, before moving to their new CMS-free approach.

    They actually built much of the front-end for Healthcare.gov in Jekyll — http://developmentseed.org/blog/2013/10/24/its-called-jekyll/

    The CMS is not the reason that the site failed. And we can love WordPress all we want but anyone who is going to argue that as a robust, enterprise-ready app platform/backend that WordPress is either any better than any other leading solution (or let’s be real, as good as any other leading solution) is deluded.

    1. Christina I agree with what you’re saying. I think you need a top developer and a hosting company that will actually legally have the ability to control HEPA data.

  4. Parts of the healthcare exchanges are ran on WordPress, but who cares to enter sensitive data on a WordPress site? That’s a clearly a security problem, if anyone has failed to notice Hawaii’s exchange is on WordPress and if you enter the URL you are taken to an admin login screen. Feel free to make ignorant choices with your personal identity, some of us like a little better security. They should have used Squarespace.

    1. Jason
      I hope you’re not honestly telling us that our security is going to be compromised because running a WordPress CMS and that would be the reason for poor security?

      Because I can tell you right now it has very little to do with it being WordPress has almost everything to do with it being on the correct host.

      A WordPress website is hosted on FireHost a HEPA approved hosting company that has proven themselves time and time again to be Fort Knox secure.

      Vs
      Square Space a great company if you want to spend $10 a month on a proprietary hosted CMS that could never and will never meet HEPA regulations.

      If the government were to announce that they were running Square Space I would be scared as hell.

      I don’t care that they’re running WordPress a open CMS that can be run on any host because they’re most likely using Fire Host, Verizon Telemark or Data Pipe. All 100% HEPA approved hosting companies.

      The access to medical records is so much more important than Going and spending $10 a month on hosting with Square Space.

      WordPress has been proven to be able to handle immense amounts of traffic when combined with the right hosting company and server architecture it can do the job without breaking a sweat.

      Because Square Space will never be able to be moved off of their existing hosting architecture which I believe is a decent host server beach the same host which happens to host WordPress com however will never offer square space for the medical industry.

      So because WordPress is not attached to one hosting company you can put it on to a truly fantastic host like FireHost and not worry at all about your information that you’re entering being compromised. I cannot say the same thing for square space.

      Please do not look at this is me being a jerk I just want to make sure I conveyed this to people that don’t seem to understand how Web security works. For more information on web security check out Sucuri & Daniel Miessler his blog will explain security and quite a bit more detail but I can.

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