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Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal, on WhiteHouse.gov's open source platform

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WhiteHouse.gov was relaunched in November with an open source Drupal platform. Although Drupal is used by other government agencies in the United States and around the world, WhiteHouse.gov is the most visible customer turning to this platform.

Dries Buytaert is the creator and project lead for the Drupal open source web publishing and collaboration platform. A native of Belgium, he was elected in 2008 as Young Entrepreneurs of Tech by BusinessWeek as well as MIT TR 35 Young Innovator.

Buytaert recently talked with FierceGovernmentIT's Judi Hasson about the deployment of Drupal, and what it's impact will be.

Judi Hasson: With the announcement that the White House website is deploying Drupal, what does it mean for the open source CMS product and how will it impact the White House site?

Dries Buytaert: Any time a large, high traffic website launches on Drupal, it validates the choice that thousands of other organizations have made when incorporating Drupal into their Web strategy. The biggest questions for any CMS--whether it's open source or not--include the following: Is it hard to deploy? Does it meet the functional requirements? Will it scale? Is it secure? Will it help the organization meet its objectives for the Web? The launch of the White House website is another in a long line of proof points that demonstrate the success of Drupal as a web technology platform and a successful open source project.

JH: Are there other government agencies using Drupal and do you expect that that more agencies will head in that direction?

DB: Yes, there are many government agencies around the globe using Drupal today. Drupal is a great match for government. I believe Drupal's momentum in the government sector will continue because Drupal offers agencies an open technology platform that enables officials to engage with their constituents in an open, transparent manner. Drupal's flexibility and modularity results in the availability of thousands of plug-ins that enables organizations to build sites quickly, at lower cost than most other solutions. 

JH: What is the advantage of Drupal over other CMS systems?

DB: The core strength of Drupal is definitely the open source community that is behind the project. I am constantly amazed by the innovation that comes out of the thousands of dedicated Drupal contributors. There are thousands of add-on modules that can be used to successfully power online communities, blogs, and collaboration environments. Furthermore, Drupal's modularity makes it much easier to use and extend than traditional content management systems.

From a technology perspective, Drupal is social publishing software that offers a unique combination of web CMS and social software within a unified platform. These two markets are converging quickly--WCM vendors are trying to catch up to open source and consumer website technologies by adding social networking and user-generated content handling capabilities to their products. Social software vendors are focused on narrowly defined functional sets--blogs, wikis, tagging, forums, or social bookmarks. Implementing these various technologies for the purpose of social publishing can be costly and complex--especially if an organization tries to do it by cobbling together disparate systems.

JH: How will Drupal make it easier for the White House to manage its website?

DB: Drupal's modular, open architecture enables site owners to take advantage of the thousands of add-on modules to extend the site with content and community features such as user comments, blogs, and integration with social media tools or to write their own modules to meet their unique needs--without having to wait on a proprietary software roadmaps. Drupal's modular design makes it attractive to both technical and non-technical users to submit content and add new capabilities to the website over time.

JH: What kind of security mechanisms does Drupal provide?

DB: From a technical point, Drupal tries to enforce good security through its APIs. We try to make it hard for developers to write insecure code.  Also, almost every patch that gets accepted into Drupal's core goes through a very thorough review process that involves a number of people. The Drupal community has a security team with more than 30 active members that works with Drupal's core and module maintainers to provide best practices, to respond to security vulnerabilities, coordinate security announcements in release cycles and evaluates whether security issues are ready for release several days in advance. Security updates are typically made available twice a month for Drupal's core and any affected modules, if any. Urgent updates are made available when available. Notification occurs by email, RSS feeds, and the administrative pages show when updates to core and/or contributed modules are available for the system as configured.