Skip to main content

Why did's source code mysteriously vanish from public view?

Why did's source code mysteriously vanish from public view?


The site's front-end code is no longer available at Github

Share this story

One of the few trouble-free areas on is the site's front end — the information pages where visitors can learn about health plans available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In contrast to the glitchy backend systems that have prevented many of the more than 14 million visitors from shopping for health insurance the past two weeks, the pages that provide information about the government's insurance marketplace were built on open-source code. Now, that code doesn't appear to be so open.

Word came over the weekend that the code had disappeared from Github, a popular service that hosts open-source projects. Since the code disappeared without explanation, there was plenty of speculation as to what might have happened. Some guessed it was sabotaged by Obamacare opponents, or maybe another glitch brought it down. Some wondered whether those in command had a change of heart about making the code public. The White House press office, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services — which is overseeing the building of the site — and Aquilent, one of the main contractors, did not respond to interview requests. Eric Gundersen, co-founder of Development Seed, one of the companies that participated in the front-end development, told The Verge that he didn't know the reason the code was no longer publicly available, but was confident that one possibility could be eliminated.

Organizers have seen better code come out of open-source projects "Bryan Sivak, the chief technology officer of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has had incredible support for this being open," Gundersen said. "I can't imagine anything has changed there. Bryan has seen better code coming out of open-source projects, and he has said multiple times that other organizations and agencies can benefit from this code being out in the open."

The New York Times had a good story on Sunday about the setbacks that a malfunctioning has meant to the Obama administration. The paper talked to executives involved with the site who blamed a series of "financial, technical, and managerial" missteps for its many shortcomings. The Times reported that some in the know about the site have said that 70 percent of the glitches are fixed, while others fear that the flaws "if not quickly fixed, could threaten the fiscal health of the insurance initiative, which depends on throngs of customers to spread the risk and keep prices low."

Fortunately, the Internet Archive has preserved a copy of the code previously found on Github, but there's still no official word on what happened to it or when it might return. We'll update if we get any response to our questions.