recommended reading

The Health Care Website Is Not Like Facebook

The above is not the same as

The above is not the same as // Northfoto/

When questioning executives of the contractor behind the problem-plagued health care website during a House hearing Thursday, Rep. Steve Scalise brought up a popular, user-friendly site for comparison.

"It's been reported over $500 million of taxpayer money [was] spent to build this website, more money, by the way, than it cost to build Facebook," the Republican from Louisiana said, citing a Digital Trends piece that reported the social network surpassed $500 million in spending costs six years into its existence. "Facebook gets 700 million users a day. Seven hundred people use that—million people use that site every day, and it works."

The thing is, isn't anything like Facebook. Never mind that the two serve very different purposes—the former to sign up uninsured Americans for health plans, the latter to fuel your fear of missing out. A lot more goes into the health care site than into Facebook, including 10 times as many lines of code, as this graphic by Orange, Calif.-based web developer Alex Marchant shows. The size of the federal website's code base, 500 million lines, surpasses that of Facebook, Windows XP, Linux, and Google Chrome.

(Courtesy of Alex Marchant)

The website must communicate with a host of different databases. It links up with a number of federal agencies, including Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration, and the Treasury Department. It interacts with state-run online health exchanges. And it connects with outside health insurance companies. All that communication, which requires a great deal of code to build and carry out, can overwhelm the entire system. "The more you have to ask another database for information, the more it can get overwhelmed," computer scientist Jonathan Wu told Reuters earlier this month.

While Facebook hosts various apps and games, it's ultimately a single application, as Wired explains, not even an operating system, such as Windows. When the site launched in 2004, it only welcomed a few hundred users, not the millions that the Obama administration encouraged to sign up, all at the same time. Over time, the social network expanded its platform to accommodate a growing number of users. The health care website, it appears, is building in reverse. In the days and weeks aheads, the lines of code will only get longer.

(Image via Northfoto /

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.