2012 Presidential Candidate Websites

Back in 2008 I did a special segment in my “Secrets In Websites” series for the 2008 Presidential Elections. It was quite popular (almost crashed the server). I decided to do it again, but slightly revised for 2012.

My observations/conclusions/insights (if you can call it that) can be found after the raw data.

Disclaimer: If you post a comment that’s beyond the technical scope of this post, it will be deleted. This isn’t a politics site, and I don’t have the patience or time for it. My blog, my rules. No exceptions.

This is just a list of data I collected as described at the bottom of the page and empirical observations. This site is not an endorsement for or against any candidate or party by myself or my employer.

Backend

Candidate Server/OS CMS Host CDN
Barack Obama (D) Apache on Unknown Unknown Level3 (CDN) Google CDN, Level3 (footprint.net for assets.bostatic.com)
Michele Bachmann (R) Apache on Unknown WordPress Smartech No
Herman Cain (R) Apache on Unknown WordPress GoDaddy No
Newt Gingrich (R) Apache on Unknown Drupal Smartech No
Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) Apache on Unknown Drupal Rackspace Cloud No
Gary Johnson (R) Apache on Unknown WordPress Media Temple No
Fred Karger (R) Apache on Unknown Drupal Slicehost / Rackspace Cloud No
Andy Martin (R} Apache on Unknown Appears to be static files GoDaddy No
Thaddeus McCotter (R) Apache on Unknown WordPress Rackspace No
Jimmy McMillan (R) Nginx / Varnish Trellix Site Builder IPOWERWEB No
Roy Moore (R) Nginx / Varnish, Apache Unknown IPOWERWEB Cotendo
Ron Paul (R) Apache on Unix WordPress Rackspace Rackspace Cloud Files (Akamai)
Rick Perry (R) Apache on Unknown WordPress Slicehost / Rackspace Cloud Google CDN
Buddy Roemer (R) Apache on Unknown WordPress Smartech No
Mitt Romney (R) Nginx, Varnish on Unknown Drupal Amazon Cloud No
Rick Santorum (R) Apache on Ubuntu Drupal Slicehost / Rackspace Cloud No
Jonathon Sharkey (R) GSE (Google) Blogspot Google Google Hosted
Tim Pawlenty (R) Varnish/Apache on Red Hat Drupal Rackspace via Freedom First PAC No

Frontend

Candidate Markup # Validation Errors Layout Charset HTTP Compression
Barack Obama (D) HTML5 72 Errors, 4 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 Yes (~75%)
Michele Bachmann (R) HTML5 27 Errors, 5 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 Yes (~65%)
Herman Cain (R) HTML5 24 Errors, 2 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 No
Newt Gingrich (R) XHTML 1.0 14 Errors, 3 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 No
Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) XHTML 1.0 364 Errors CSS UTF-8 Yes (~75%)
Gary Johnson (R) HTML5 15 Errors, 1 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 No
Fred Karger (R) XHTML 1.0 6 Errors, 6 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 Yes (~76%)
Andy Martin (R) No Doctype 45 Errors, 2 warning(s) as HTML4 Trans Table windows-1252 No
Thaddeus McCotter (R) HTML5 50 Errors, 2 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 No
Jimmy McMillan (R) No Doctype 27 Errors, 10 warning(s) Table iso-8859-1 Yes (~88%)
Roy Moore (R)* XHTML 1.0 3 Errors, 6 warning(s) Flash, Tables UTF-8 Yes (~65%)
Ron Paul (R) XHTML 1.0 Strict 34 Errors, 19 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 No
Rick Perry (R) HTML5 6 Errors, 3 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 Yes (~73%)
Buddy Roemer (R) XHTML 1.0 23 Errors, 7 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 No
Mitt Romney (R) XHTML 1.0 Strict 5 Errors, 4 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 Yes (~77%)
Rick Santorum (R) XHTML 1.0 Strict 22 Errors CSS UTF-8 Yes (~74%)
Jonathon Sharkey (R) XHTML 1.0 Strict 158 Errors, 199 warning(s) CSS UTF-8 No
Tim Pawlenty ® XHTML 1.0 Strict 42 Errors CSS UTF-8 Yes (~83%)

Frontend (cont)

Candidate apple-touch-icon Syndication Format Framework/Libraries Social Networks Analytics Misc.
Barack Obama (D) Yes RSS 2.0 jQuery Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Google Analytics Chrome IE Frame, Viewport Meta tags
Michele Bachmann (R) No Feedburner/RSS2 jQuery,Yahoo Base CSS, SWFObject Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr Google Analytics FB OpenGraph, lots of WordPress Plugins
Herman Cain (R) No No jQuery Facebook, TWitter Google Analytics ShareThis, Some WordPress Plugins
Newt Gingrich (R) No RSS jQuery Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Google Analytics, Omniture Has separate mobile site. Short domain.
Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) No RSS 2.0 jQuery Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo Google Analytics ShareThis
Gary Johnson (R) No RSS 2.0 jQuery Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube Google Analytics, KISSmetrics Web Fonts
Fred Karger (R) No RSS jQuery Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube Google Analytics NetBoots Powered
Andy Martin (R) No Atom/RSS via Blogspot blog No Facebook, Twitter Font tag
Thaddeus McCotter (R) No RSS 2.0 jQuery, jQuery UI Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Google Analytics, Chartbeat Multilingual (xili-language powered)
Jimmy McMillan (R) No No Hit Counter by Digits The rent is too damn high
Roy Moore (R) No No SwfObject Facebook, YouTube Google Analytics iframed flash site. Likely to prevent spidering / caching content.
Ron Paul (R) No RSS 2.0 jQuery Twitter, Facebook, YouTube Google Analytics, Chartbeat W3 Total Cache
Rick Perry (R) Yes RSS 2.0 html5 boilerplate/modernizr, jQuery Facebook, Twitter ChartBeat, Google Analytics @media print
Buddy Roemer (R) No RSS (via FeedBurner) jQuery Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Google Analytics All in One SEO Pack
Mitt Romney (R) Yes RSS 2.0 jQuery, Typekit, Gigya Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr Google Analytics, Omniture, Lotame, NewRelic, Compete, Clickable Analytics!
Rick Santorum (R) No RSS jQuery, TypeKit Facebook YouTube, Twitter, Flickr Google Analytics That Google bomb is still working wonders on his name
Jonathon Sharkey (R) No Atom/RSS 2.0 Google Doesn’t own a .com?
Tim Pawlenty (R) No No jQuery Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook GoSquared, ChartBeat, DoubleClick Floodlight, Google Analytics Ended campaign

Observations

I retooled this for 2012 based on how web development and the internet has changed as well as the data that’s available. The most noteworthy thing is that EVERY campaign uses open source. Perhaps it’s saving money in this economy? Windows Server isn’t free after all. Most use it extensively. Regardless who wins, that candidate would be very hypocritical to support the (unlikely regardless) “open source is communism” mantra. If this isn’t proof that open source is as mainstream as ever in America, I don’t know what is. Apache is a huge winner. So is jQuery, WordPress, Drupal, even Nginx and Varnish made a showing (they weren’t even on the radar in 2008).

Lots of websites are using the HTML5 doctype now. That doesn’t mean they are using HTML5, but many are moving in that direction. Web Fonts were spotted. Tables were very rare.

Shockingly, CDN usage and HTTP compression were pretty rare. Given Google will host popular javascript frameworks (jQuery for example), if you can’t afford the CPU to gzip data you could let Google host it for free. Lots of cloud hosting though.

Between popular CMS’s, and popular plugins/modules for those CMS’s, there’s little diversity in these sites this time around. It was obvious last time, it’s much more obvious this time. Mono-culture has set in regarding the technicals of these sites.

One thing that really stood out is the amount of analytics on each site. This election is really a data war. Knowing as much as possible about voters and the candidates base. Clearly this is an escalation from 2008. There is also a proliferation of real-time analytics usage this time around. Data is everything in the business world, it’s becoming that way in campaign websites as well.

Misc Notes

Data collection method: The data for this blog post was mostly done on the evening of August 30, 2011 and August 31, 2011 by myself. The character set was however Firefox 6.0 interprets the page. HTML validation was checked by submitting to the W3C validator. All other analysis was done by eye and using tools like cURL. Some things were a little bit of a judgment call, such as CSS layout. I didn’t generally penalize if a table was used, it depends how it was used, and the context. I viewed source on all of them, and spent some time looking around while collecting data. I didn’t view every page on every site, since that would drive me insane. The data is based on the homepage of the site however I did make a brief attempt to hunt for feeds since some only include a link on a “news” page. If I couldn’t find it quick enough, it doesn’t exist.

Secrets In Websites III?: Yes there will likely be a third installment. I don’t know when, I don’t know what will be included. I do have some ideas and notes. It takes time to put these together, and I’m not exactly drowning in free time these days.

* Roy Moore’s website is Flash in an iframe. For purposes of this analysis I’m using the page containing the flash object.

2 thoughts on “2012 Presidential Candidate Websites

  1. Pingback: CMS’s livres nas campanhas políticas

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