Governments Using Open Source
American presidents from across the political spectrum have used WordPress for their official websites. There is nothing partisan about the software; instead, its popularity with the presidents of this century shows its power and influence on the web.
Indeed, it is not only American political leaders who have embraced WordPress. Here are just a few international examples:
- The President of Yemen
- The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
- The Prime Minister of India
- The Royal Thai Embassy
- Sweden’s official national website
We can see the evolution of WordPress as a trusted platform for official government websites through its use by recent U.S. presidents.
In 2017, President Obama chose WordPress for his Obama Foundation website. He was the first U.S. President to use WordPress.
It’s worth noting that Obama’s WhiteHouse.gov site was the first iteration to use an open source CMS, albeit Drupal, in 2009.
Drupal’s founder, Dries Buytaert, wrote, “Drupal is a perfect match for President Barack Obama’s push for an open and transparent government…this is a clear sign that governments realize that Open Source does not pose additional risks compared to proprietary software.” The decision in 2009 was recognized as a sign of change. The choice of WordPress in 2017 for the Obama Foundation website can be understood as part of that evolution.
Later in 2017, the White House switched from Drupal to WordPress for whitehouse.gov. The White House announced that the new site looked cleaner and more presidential than the previous version. It included no interactive elements.
The Washington Examiner reported that the new website would be much cheaper to maintain, cutting the previous website’s maintenance and security costs in half from $6 million per year. This was given as the explanation of the platform shift, based on the word of a “White House spokesperson.”
The Trump administration’s version of WhiteHouse.gov archives are still visible at TrumpWhiteHouse.archives.gov. Trump also had a WordPress blog called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” though that has been shut down. His current official website, donaldjtrump.com, is not a WordPress site.
Joe Biden used WordPress for his campaign site, JoeBiden.com, and the Harris-Biden transition site, BuildBackBetter.com. Upon Biden’s win, the transition site redirected to BuildBackBetter.gov, and then to whitehouse.gov when his administration updated the national site.
Biden’s WhiteHouse.gov focused on accessibility. It includes the language switcher MultilingualPress. Visitors can toggle to a high-contrast dark mode and larger font sizes designed to help people with limited vision. Inclusive pronouns were added to the contact page.
Andrew Nacin oversaw the WhiteHouse.gov effort for Biden’s administration, and the new site was completed in six weeks, launching on inauguration day.
While the use of WordPress by three presidents of the United States in a row (so far) indicates the platform’s importance, it is not only the presidents who use WordPress in government.
The State Department’s official website, State.gov, is a WordPress website. USA.gov, and the new beta site at beta.usa.gov, are WordPress websites.
According to PublishPress, every U.S. embassy in the world uses WordPress. Democrats.org is the Democratic Party’s website, also powered by WordPress. The Republican Party does not use WordPress, but the Republican Governors Association does. The Library of Congress runs its blog on WordPress. Digital.gov is a WordPress website.
State and city governments also use WordPress widely. The popularity of WordPress for government websites should put to rest the myth that WordPress is less secure than traditional websites.
WordPress also has the avowed mission of democratizing publishing. Does this make WordPress an obvious candidate for applications that support democracy?
In 2018, when Obama, Trump, and Biden all had WordPress websites (JoeBiden.com redirected to AmericanPossibilities.org), WordPress reached an important milestone: powering one-third of the global web. In turn, it made sense that powerful and important websites were being built on WordPress, regardless of the political leanings of the content.
Yet some believe that the WordPress mission of democratizing publishing is a political statement in itself. Justin Tadlock wrote at WPTavern that there is no point in insisting that WordPress should be divorced from politics. “WordPress itself is inherently political. From its license to its mission statement, WordPress takes some political stances,” he wrote. “The concept that users have the freedom to run, copy, alter, improve, or even distribute software is a political statement. It is a political statement in direct defiance of major corporations and governments controlling software through proprietary licenses.”