Over the weekend, the White House switched from its Bush-era closed source content management system (CMS) to the popular Drupal (news, site) open source platform. The project reflects Drupal's growing acceptance with more sophisticated web operations and the U.S. government's inclination to leverage open source software.
Massachusetts-based Acquia — the relatively young commercial entity started by Drupal project founder, Dries Buyeart, and also one of the founding members of Open Source for America — was on board as a project subcontractor.
The Revolution Will Be Gradual
At a practical level, initial comments suggest that it is pretty much business as usual for the White House website. If anything, the search function will run faster and content updating should be easier for the maintainers. Looking forward, the switch will enable those contracted with running the White House site (General Dynamics Information Technology) to add some of the smart features that the Drupal community comes up with, if appropriate.
A Green Light for Open Source Software
To those who implement big name sites, it will send a signal that the open source movement is not something to be afraid of. As the news spreads, it will boost the profile of Drupal and may have executives asking if they too can benefit from open source software alternatives.
For the CMS market and the greater information technology community, it shows an acceptance of open source and an acknowledgment that it is trusted no less than closed source options. Of course, that could change if the site starts being defaced on a regular basis, but such is the challenge for any public website.
White House new media director Macon Phillips told The Associated Press that:
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.
The project is a solid nod to the Drupal project and to Acquia. And while it may not be as significant as Jimmy Carter putting solar panels on the roof of the White House, it does likely signal the start of the wider uptake of open source throughout the U.S. Government, itself a massive consumer of software and Web services.
[Editor's Note: Check out our 2009 Open Source CMS Market Share report for details on the 20 most popular open source content management systems.]