White House Gets Its First Facebook App
By Garance Franke-Ruta
First came the zombies. The cocktails. A fishtank app you could send your friends. There were Causes, and quizzes, and ways to demarcate which friend was actually a member of your family.
Now the White House has joined the fray, quietly launching the first White House Facebook app -- short for application -- in early June. The White House Live application, like the CNN Live application developed in a collaboration with Facebook for the inauguration, allows people who are logged onto the popular social network to see a live video stream of a particular event and, simultaneously, what everyone watching it on Facebook is saying about it in their status updates. People can also narrow the app's status update feed to the Friends category, allowing them to see in real time how their friends are reacting to an event, no matter where they may be geographically.
The application was used twice today by the White House, first for the president's news conference, and later for a roundtable panel discussion marking the 37th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. And it's been quietly used over the past month for some of the White House's more low-key events, such as a "Stakeholder Meeting with Physicians" on June 18, after being developed as part of the aggressive new media outreach push surrounding Obama's June 4 speech to the Muslim world.
"We first started using this app around the Cairo speech and tried to develop it to sort of foster conversation around what the president was saying in his speech," said White House new media director Macon Phillips in an interview. "This is really this first Facebook application that we've put together. We've been really pleased with its engagement and utility," he later added. "We're hoping to use it more and more."
The White House Live application isn't the first Obama operation foray into app development. During Obama's presidential campaign, Obama for America developed a well-regarded iPhone application that allowed users to connect their friends to Obama meetings, as well as locate events from the mobile device.
There's no White House iPhone app so far, but if the new media team thinks it will be useful, there may be in the future. "We want to make sure it's a means to an end," said Phillips of potential future apps, adding, "We aren't doing these tools just to do them."
So far the White House Live app -- built by developers Tom Whitnah and David Cole, according to the site -- has just 79 "fans" and one review (a five-star rave). But it's registering 6,301 active monthly users -- about 2.5 percent of the White House Facebook page's 259,475 fans -- even before its first month is out.
Posted at 5:58 PM ET on Jun 23, 2009
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