in orbit

I mostly talk about video games and the world wide web

Jan212009

Internet Site One

With the inauguration of Barack Obama comes the most immediate result of his presidency, the White House web site. It's interesting because Obama is really the first technically inclined president. The first we've had who has embraced the digital age. Clinton was 46 when he was elected in 1992, back when the internet was very, very young. Whitehouse.gov didn't actually launch until 1994 and was sparse at best. One or two (very 90s) redesigns followed including probably the most memorable, at least to me, though I couldn't tell you why.

George W. Bush was elected in the year 2000 and sworn in in January of 2001. Shortly after a horrible thing was put up to replace the minimalist Clinton-era site, though it was improved upon from time to time.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks a newer version was put up, though archive.org is missing anything between July and September of 2001, so it may have gone up sooner. That version, while not overly great by today's standards, was reasonable for 2001. Tabular layout, half-assed use of CSS and your old friend Verdana.

The 2001 version of the site received some tweaks during its tenure as First Web Site, but mostly kept the same look in a post-9/11 world. The last version I linked to remained the president's site through his 2004 reelection and up until early 2007 when a new version was put up. This new one, although better looking, was mostly just a restyling of the previous version. It was slightly wider but still had a tabular layout, which while acceptable in 2001 was a crime in 2007.

And now we have the current site, which was put up at almost the very moment the clock struck noon in Washington (elected presidents become president at noon on the third Tuesday of January regardless of whether or not they take the oath, which is mainly a formality). So now we have a site that looks a lot like Barack Obama.com, probably because it was designed by the same guy. There's a news ticker/slideshow at the top with crossfades, lots of little details and the site is remarkably standards compliant (stupid image borders). Also I should mention, since I've been harping on it, that the layout is entirely CSS driven. There is a single table but it's used to keep a form in line (which isn't perfect, but I can accept it). It's actually a nice looking, competent, well designed government web site, which is saying something since there are some pretty terrible ones out there. Okay that last one I mainly threw in because the URL is hilarious (and horrifying).

At any rate, while I may not be overly excited to finally have the word 'blog' be associated with the President of the United States, I think Obama's technical initiatives as well as him being the first president to utilize things like 'computers' and 'e-mail' at least shows some signs of hope for the future. Does it mean that the government will finally stop being baffled by technological wonders such as MP3 players and video games? Probably not immediately, but the chances of congress understanding things like DRM and government-sanctioned censorship of violent games and why they may not necessarily be the best thing for the American people may not be as far away as I once thought.

So how about that? A little hope from a simple web page. Promises as advertised. Let's see what else this new guy can do.
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Here here! I think it's fantastic, and I've subscribed to email updates so we'll see what comes of that. The fact that he's at least outwardly displaying himself and talking like he wants to be open and plugged in gives me hope.

Jan. 23, 2009 (3:18am EST)

#2 - Mike L. Reply
And did the last site have anything like this:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing_room/executive_orders/
which seems to be updated every evening if he signs any. That's fast action and further proof of his call for more transparency. Small steps can be big leaps.

Jan. 23, 2009 (3:20am EST)

#3 - Mike Reply
yeah I'm pretty sure that's new to this site, which is awesome. apparently they were having some issues getting those up in a timely fashion, but I guess first-day hiccups are to be expected. and I agree, really awesome way to add more transparency to the government. what's this feeling? it's unfamiliar to me... I think... I think I am actually happy with something the president did... weird

Jan. 23, 2009 (5:19am EST)