Programming Language Breakdown for the HealthCare.gov Website

Late last year, the NY Times released an article quoting a specialist working on the HealthCare.gov web site:

According to one specialist, the Web site contains about 500 million lines of software code. By comparison, a large bank’s computer system is typically about one-fifth that size.

This astronomically large number became the subject of intense criticism over the following months, especially in the wake of HealthCare.gov’s initially failed launch. Particularly, a number of software engineering experts brought into question how realistic it is for any software engineering team to even produce a code base that large. Despite this, the 500 million lines of code statistic has been uncritically cited worldwide.

Just today, a data visualization poking fun at this statistic made it to the front page of the subreddit /r/dataisbeautiful. Apparently annoyed by this horrendously false statistic for the last time, one programmer on the HealthCare.gov software development team decided to put the statistic to rest. This programmer performed an automated code count for the HealthCare.gov code base and estimated that there it has only about 3.7 million lines of code for the primary code base. Below is the breakdown of programming languages for that 3.7 million lines of code.

healthcare-gov-code-count

The programmer clarified:

this doesn’t include parts of the system used for administrative tasks.

and

the total number of lines of code controlling the entire system could be anywhere from 5 – 15 million lines of code.

So there you go — as many of us guessed all along, the 500 million lines of code statistic was utterly bogus. Let’s share this information and put that bad statistic to rest.

Randy is a PhD candidate in Michigan State University's Computer Science program. As a member of Dr. Chris Adami's research lab, he studies biologically-inspired artificial intelligence and evolutionary processes.

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  • Francis Bacon

    Ok so they wrote say 10 million lines of code and billed for 500 million lines.
    That would be about right for govt. contractor gouging.

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  • http://www.masterhormones.com Victor Ananyev MD

    According to my brilliant Russian friend, who is programmer and hardware expert for many years Indian IT professionals who immigrated to the US use very backward and long code lines programming. Check it out in http://www.heatlhcare.gov HR department and figure it out . Americans failed to recognize the critical issue therefore it is better to invite more Russians and give them as many working visas as they want for the National security of the United States!

  • Justin

    Why are we supposed to believe this without any proof at all.

    Do you seriously expect anyone to believe there are 100k lines of CSS? I can go view the site myself and there’s not even remotely close to that from what I can tell.

    • http://www.randalolson.com Randy Olson

      This is a much more reliable source than the previous source that claimed the 500 million lines.

    • https://www.facebook.com/scott.schafer.12 Scott Schafer

      You would hope the css was minified, though.

      • https://www.facebook.com/adam.crossland Adam Crossland

        Is there a CSS maxifier?

    • https://plus.google.com/+LouisRusso Louis Russo

      I’m sure they minified their code, but like most “large” websites healthcare.gov involves many different sites in a number of locations. An individual user would not download every line of css developed for “healthcare.gov” just like a single user does not download every line of css developed for facebook. Location, client type, and pages viewed/accessed change which files are loaded to the user.

      • https://twitter.com/autiomaa Daniel Schildt

        110K lines of CSS is actually quite realistic (even if still a sign of bloated codebase).

        Compare that to LinkedIn, where they had 230K lines of SCSS in 1100 files, according to Chris Eppstein https://chriseppstein.github.io/blog/2013/04/22/joining-linkedin/ (who is one of the core developers of Sass and Compass).

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  • http://cpstandard.wordpress.com jacobfeldman

    no mentioning of externalized business rules? hard to believe…

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