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21 February 2024

change.gov in the White House

Obama's official website is being seen as a bold experiment in interactive governance. (AP)


The White House of President Barack Obama went online with a promise that its slick new website would provide a "window for all Americans into the business of the government".

In a posting on the blog of whitehouse.gov, Macon Phillips, the White House Director of New Media, said the site "will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world". "Change has come to whitehouse.gov," Phillips wrote after the website of former president George W Bush went offline and was replaced by that of Obama.

Noting that the internet played a key role in Obama's November 4 election victory, Phillips said: "whitehouse.gov is just the beginning of the new administration's efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement.

"Just like your new government, whitehouse.gov and the rest of the administration's online programs will put citizens first," he added.

Phillips said the White House's new media efforts would focus on "communication," "transparency" and "participation".

He said the site "will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated" and encouraged users to sign up for e-mail updates, a technique Obama's team used very successfully during his campaign.

"President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and whitehouse.gov will play a major role in delivering on that promise," Phillips said.

"The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that's just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government," he added. "Citizen participation will be a priority for the administration, and the internet will play an important role in that."

Following through on an Obama campaign promise, he said: "We will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it."

Phillips also encouraged users to send ideas about improving whitehouse.gov.

Prominently displayed on the homepage of the new website was a message from the Office of Public Liaison and a link to an e-mail form, which members of the public can use to send their thoughts to the White House.

Whitehouse.gov was also undergoing some early teething pains this week.

It noted on the blog that Obama had issued a proclamation moments after taking office calling on Americans to serve one another, but said in another area on the site that he had not yet issued any proclamations.

The website has been widely expected to be the window for what is being touted as a bold experiment in interactive governance.

Change.gov, the official website of the Obama transition team, contained such features as the "Citizen's Briefing Book," in which users were invited to submit ideas by e-mail and "rate or offer comments on the ideas of others".

Another feature, "Your Seat at the Table", called for the proceedings of meetings between the transition team and outside organisations to be published on change.gov and allowed members of the public to comment on them.

Whitehouse.gov also features a detailed look at the new president's agenda on topics ranging from the economy to energy to the environment and biographies of Obama and his Vice President, Joe Biden. There's also a slideshow of US presidents beginning with George Washington and a trivia section called "White House 101" featuring "facts and fun for all ages".

It also includes links to the websites of other federal agencies and a primer on the role of the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Obama online

The first US Internet President is an online sensation, triggering a tidal wave of Web traffic as he officially seized the nation's reins this week.

Akamai Technologies, which specialises in assuring that websites don't crash under the weight of heavy online traffic, saw digital content surge to record levels – more than two terabytes of data per second.

Akamai said its EdgePlatform was streaming more than seven million video feeds, most of them live, at points during Obama's acceptance speech.

During the inauguration, the number of Haiku-style updates fired off by users of Twitter leapt fivefold, the micro-blogging service said.

"Overall, twitter sailed smoothly through the inauguration but at the peak, some folks did experience a two-five minute delay receiving updates," a twitter blog entry said.

Social-networking site Facebook said the rate of profile page updates surged, peaking at an unprecedented 8,500 per minute during Obama's speech.