While browsing the source code of President Obama’s latest web initiative, recovery.org, I noticed something of interest.

<script type="text/javascript">
<!--//--><![CDATA[//><!--
jQuery.extend(Drupal.settings, { "basePath": "/" });
//--><!]]>
</script>

Wow, this can’t be true. Can it?

$ curl -I http://www.recovery.gov
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Cache-Control: must-revalidate
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 11:36:57 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
ETag: "bc708fa7497a4a151dfc2076d5f804eb"
Expires: Sun, 19 Nov 1978 05:00:00 GMT
Last-Modified: Wed, 18 Feb 2009 15:51:07 GMT
Server: Apache
Content-Length: 14103
X-WR-MODIFICATION: Content-Length
Connection: keep-alive

Yep, it is. These little snippets aren’t much, but they speak volumes. The White House is using open source software, specifically the Apache web server, the Drupal CMS and the jQuery javascript framework.

So What?

Open source adoption is most definitely on the rise, but it still has a stigma attached. The idea that Microsoft and closed-source enterprise software are still the “safe bet” seems to be prevalent among the pointy-haired bosses of the world. For those of us trying to push open source into these institutions, the fight just got a little bit easier. Recovery.gov gives us one more (rather tasty) piece of evidence to support our claim. Open source is safe. It is valid. And, oh… by the way, it is used by the U.S. government, a rather large organization with a mind for security.

Sneaking in this bit of open source software isn’t a one-trick pony for Obama either. It also appears as a study of open source health technology systems has been included in the stimulus package. This is exciting news for the open source community.

The Bigger Picture

More exciting than his use of open source software, is the clear message Obama has made regarding opening up his operations. With the revamping whitehouse.gov (it has a blog and a weekly video address), our government now has a level of transparency unparalleled during my lifetime. The precedence this administration is setting will be a hard one of future administrations to overturn. Regardless of your political stance, I hope we can all agree that an open government is good for the people.