"Put yourself in Bryan's perspective, with his ability to know what's going on," said Gundersen. "He could just open up an issue tracker and look at what's been done, not wait for a briefing."
Talking at length with HHS' CTO, it's clear that he's happy with the process and outcomes, though he emphasized repeatedly that the site will continue to improve.
"The thing that Git is all about is social coding," said Sivak, "leveraging the community to help build projects in a better way. It's the embodiment of the open source movement, in many ways: it allows for truly democratic coding, sharing, modifications and updates in a nice interface that a lot of people use."
Sivak has high aspirations that publishing the code for Healthcare.gov will lead to a different kind of citizen engagement.
"I have this idea that when we release this code, there may be people out there who will help make improvements, maybe fork the repository, and suggest changes we can choose to add," he said. "Instead of just internal consultants who help build this, we suddenly have legions of developers."
The long game for the code behind Healthcare.gov may be quite interesting, given the status of exchanges in the states. If their health insurance exchanges aren't ready or robust, they can simply pull this code and adopt it. While states and federal government sharing code might make for fertile fodder for constitutional scholars and philosophical discussions of federalism in the future, for the moment, the stakeholders all just need something that works.
"This is multi-lingual, 508-compliant, and hits on mobile," said Gundersen. "So many states and fed agencies can look at this as part of a new, different way of building websites. Part of that is process-based, from the start, using tech that is faster and more flexible."
In fact, Booth says that there have already been a couple of states that have asked CMS if they can pull the code on their sites.
"We don't have to ask if you're on Microsoft, Unix or Application Server Pages," he said. "It's on Github and you can pull it down. Open source is not always applicable but when it is, it's very powerful."
Not everything is innovative in the new Healthcare.gov, as Nick Judd reported at TechPresident in March: The procurement process that led to Development Seed is complicated, with some potential conflicts of interest present.
The end result, however, is a small startup in a garage in DC collaborating with the federal government to relaunch one of the most important federal websites of the 21st century in a decidedly 21st-century way: cheaper, faster and scalable, using open source tools and open standards.
"This is the responsive Web of structured data," said Mullen. "Create once, publish everywhere."
That's a huge win for the American people, and while the vast majority of visitors to Healthcare.gov this fall will never know or perhaps care about how the site was built, the delivery of better service at lowered cost to taxpayers is an outcome that matters to everyone.
"Open by design, open by default," said Sivak. "That's what we're doing. It just makes a lot of sense. If you think about what should happen after this year, all of the states that didn't implement their systems, would it make sense for them to have code to use as their own? Or add to it? Think about the amount of money and effort that would save."