John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

The Akamai Presidency? [UPDATED]

obamatubeSo much for the “YouTube Presidency.”

The Obama administration is no longer using Google’s (GOOG) video player to deliver the President’s weekly addresses online. Instead, it will use an Akamai (AKAM) player. No reason has yet been given for the abrupt switch, although some speculate it was inspired by privacy concerns over the video-sharing site.

As many privacy advocates noted when the White House first began relying on it, YouTube uses cookies that can track visitors even if they never actually play the video. “Whenever you follow a link, or download an embedded or off-site resource, your browser sends a referer header (sic) that tells the Web site what Web page you came from,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains. “And whenever you load any document, your browser may send cookies that show whether you’ve visited the same site before, and that may even identify you directly. For instance, if you’re logged into YouTube and you watch an embedded YouTube video on some other site, YouTube can still recognize you because your browser will still send a personalized YouTube cookie. This means that loading an embedded video from within a blog could enable the video hosting site (and, in some cases, its advertising partners) to compile a history of which blog entries you were reading and when–even if you didn’t try to play the video.”

And this was the case with the President’s weekly addresses as delivered via YouTube. Not an ideal situation for the administration, and one that it quickly sought to remedy. Shortly after the initial outcry over the issue, the White House rolled out a technical fix that limited that tracking ability only to those who watched the President’s weekly address. But that was really just a band-aid. This latest move seems far more definitive, as the Akamai player uses no tracking cookies whatsoever.

UPDATE: The White House says it has not abandoned YouTube. It’s simply testing a new player.

“As the president continues his goal of making government more accessible and transparent, this week we tested a new way of presenting the president’s weekly address by using a player developed in-house,” a White House spokesman said in a statement. “This decision is more about better understanding our internal capabilities than it is a position on third-party solutions or a policy. The weekly address was also published in third-party video hosting communities and we will likely continue to embed videos from these services on WhiteHouse.gov in the future.”


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