Obama's Apology For A Tech Meltdown Is A Major Letdown

Ashlee Vance | Bloomberg | October 21, 2013

Back in June, the Atlantic wrote a gushing article about HealthCare.gov. The website was fast, clean, and built on the cheap. It represented everything good about the tech-savvy Obama administration, which, since day one, has been dialed into such big-time trends as cloud computing and the rise of open-source software. Here was a website for the people and by the people—or at least by a decent contractor.

As most people now know, any good feelings around HealthCare.gov have evaporated. People trying to use the site to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act have met with an experience that even dial-up users circa 1995 would abhor. On Monday, President Obama found himself not at the campus of Facebook (FB) or Twitter, back-slapping brogrammers, but in Washington apologizing for this abomination. “Nobody is madder than me,” Obama said during a press conference. “We did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website. That’s not what this was about.”

The author of that Atlantic piece, Alex Howard, hasn’t exactly apologized, but he has been walking back support for the glories of HealthCare.gov. Like a number of other people, Howard says that the front end of the website—the part that people see—was an achievement. All the mess has taken place on the back end, where nasty databases and clunky code from various parties must interact. [...]