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:

  • 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.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.


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