White House takes leap into Web 2.0

The White House took a major leap into the Web 2.0 world on Friday, launching pages on social networks MySpace and Facebook and sending its first “tweets” on hot micro-blogging service Twitter.

Content from US President Barack Obama’s website WhiteHouse.gov is being fed in real time to White House profile pages on MySpace and Facebook and members of the communities can sign up as Facebook fans or MySpace friends.

The White House had more than 31 000 fans on Facebook and more than 4 000 friends on MySpace within a few hours of the pages going
online while more than 8 500 people had signed up as “followers” of the White House on Twitter.

“Technology has profoundly impacted how — and where — we all consume information and communicate with one another,” the White House said in a blog post on WhiteHouse.gov titled “WhiteHouse 2.0.”

“WhiteHouse.gov is an important part of the administration’s effort to use the internet to reach the public quickly and effectively — but it isn’t the only place,” it said, pointing to the new online destinations.

The White House invited feedback from users and both the MySpace and Facebook pages were deluged with comments — not all of them complimentary.

“We’re looking forward to hearing from our fans, friends and followers,” the White House said.

The blog post referred to an Obama speech from a week earlier in which he said the government needs to “recognise that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking.”

“We need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative,” Obama said, pledging to “reach beyond the halls of government” to engage the public.

MySpace said the official White House page will allow users to “connect directly with the Obama administration on a daily basis to stay informed and educated about the priorities and activities of the United States government.

“The community also provides users the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns directly to the White House by leaving comments and participating in discussion forums,” MySpace said in a statement.

Obama relied heavily on the web during his presidential campaign for organising, fundraising and communicating and created pages on MySpace and Facebook which attracted hundreds of thousands of followers.

On January 21, his first full day in office, he issued a memo pledging to use the internet to help make government more “transparent, participatory and collaborative”.

Besides revamping WhiteHouse.gov, the Obama administration has created several other websites including recovery.gov to track the economic stimulus Bill and transparency.gov to monitor spending.

It has also announced plans to launch data.gov, a site which will “make a broad array of US government data” available to the public.

Obama’s “New Media” team created a channel on YouTube upon his taking office and the White House is also present on photo-sharing site Flickr, video-sharing site Vimeo and on Apple’s iTunes.

The White House on Wednesday posted hundreds of pictures on Flickr chronicling Obama’s first 100 days in office.

The new White House sites can be found at Facebook.com/WhiteHouse, MySpace.com/WhiteHouse and Twitter.com/WhiteHouse. – AFP

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