In late October, the White House switched its content management system from a proprietary platform to Drupal. Drupal (pronounced droo-pal) is an open-source content management system that is mature, rich with features, and very flexible. Now the White House site can be added to the “powered by Drupal” list along side companies such as CNN, Yahoo, and Nike.
The web has been buzzing about this change, but what’s the significance of this announcement? Why do so many people find this switch to Drupal important? There are a number of reasons but here are 3 that stick out to me the most.
First, it shows that Drupal is capable of powering a high-profile government site. This says a lot for the Drupal framework, the knowledge of the open-source community, and quality of the software. The White House site also showcases the platform’s ability to handle various types of media, logically organized content, and social interaction.
Secondly, this switch displays a rare level of transparency in government. Aside from just running on the Drupal platform, the White House News Media Team has been open about their development process and will even contribute code back to the Drupal community. The Team can be seen here, speaking about their switch to Drupal at a recent meeting in Washington, D.C.
Lastly it shows that open-source is capable. Though many high-profile sites have been powered by Drupal, adding the U.S. government to that list helps solidify its standing as a powerful content management system. Even beyond the realm of Drupal, there are other capable open-source systems out there, which would work well in a government setting. Hopefully this switch will act as a catalyst to the get more government sites moving away from proprietary systems.
This is a big win for both the Drupal and open source communities. It will be interesting to see what other government sites will adopt Drupal or any of the many platforms currently available. Dries Buytaert, Drupal founder, said this about the switch, “…this is a clear sign that governments realize that Open Source does not pose additional risks compared to proprietary software…they can benefit from the innovation that is the result of thousands of developers collaborating on Drupal.”