There was never any doubt in my mind that the health care exchanges would have major issues once they hit the real world. Maybe some developers can weigh in below on why that might be, but I'll take a wild shot at two big factors here: cost and complexity.
Complex websites connecting and extracting information securely from multiple databases across vast networks are expensive. For-profit companies have gotten in a very bad habit since the Great Recession of deluding themselves into believing they are so freaking brilliant that they and they alone can pay for the equivalent of a jalopy and then turn around and run it like a turbo-vette. They can't.
The second point is these networks are complex. In some cases it's simply not possible to test them short of going live and there's no upper limit to how much can be spent on test-simulations of questionable value. To use a physical analogy, a specific subway car or tunnel can certainly be tested. But the only practical way to learn how an entire subway network in a large city that is in turn plugged into a larger and more diverse transportation grid made of pedestrians on sidewalks, roads and highways, cabs, buses, airports, ferries, ports, and several million personal vehicles, all powered by giant fossil fuel distribution networks and regional electric power grids will behave at rush hour is to open it up for business and see what happens.
Obviously the usual suspects predictably obsessed on healthcare.gov, but when they started opining that Obama should personally land Air Force in Silicon Valley and load up some tech gurus to tweak it into proper performance I had to laugh. Do these clowns really not pay attention to how complex networked software and websites produced by these same tech pioneers often behave when first activated? Join me below and we'll review a few of those.
A large video game maker worked on a new version of a classic game, for the better part of 10 years. Enormous amounts of money and resources were poured into it. When the game finally rolled out, it was rocky to say the least:
The Diablo III Battle.net servers went live at this time and people who downloaded the game could begin playing. Initially the launches were hindered by heavy server load with many users getting various errors, including the error 37 which reads; "The servers are busy at this time. Please try again later". These issues made the game unplayable for those affected, while some others experienced in-game bugs. Despite assurances from Blizzard that the problems leading to the connection errors during Diablo III's launch had been resolved, Eurogamer reported on May 31, 2012 that these errors were still ongoing, and had reappeared after patch 1.0.2 was released for the game. Many fans complained ...D3 went on to become the bestselling game in 2013, but it was still being patched for various tech issues weeks after release. Of course we don't have to look at video games or even websites, mere operating systems worked on by the best developers on earth have had their moments of flameout:
Vista was designed to replace Windows XP and, of course, make scads of money for Microsoft -- and it did. But the operating system was clunky and full of bugs and was greeted almost immediately with negative buzz. Vista was released on January 30, 2007, but by April, Microsoft essentially waved the white flag, allowing Dell to keep offering XP on new computers. Meanwhile, not coincidentally, Microsoft sped up the development of its next, much more well-received, offering: Windows 7.We haven't even scratched the surface yet, how about the granddaddy internet software/network of them all?
How do we loathe AOL? Let us count the ways. Since America Online emerged from the belly of a BBS called Quantum "PC-Link" in 1989, users have suffered through awful software, inaccessible dial-up numbers, rapacious marketing, in-your-face advertising, questionable billing practices, inexcusably poor customer service, and enough spam to last a lifetime. And all the while, AOL remained more expensive than its major competitors. This lethal combination earned the world's biggest ISP the top spot on our list of bottom feeders.I picked those three examples above because they involve fairly successful, well-known companies, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. Most PCs these days have so many add ons and plugins and sub-programs that have to work and have to be regularly updated, that even as someone who works with that stuff in tech support every day, I can't keep up with it. That's just the end user software side, add on devices, cards, modems, routers, networks, and the whole shebang, and it's amazing this thing called the internet works at all.
In point of fact, it doesn't work that well. We all know this, pages constantly hang up, malware constantly tries to install itself, cable networks constantly reboot themselves or simply stop working for arbitrary periods of time. OS and software constantly conflict, patches constantly fail to install correctly, and customer service by and large for all this shit is usually somewhere between horrid and non existent. It's maddening, if any other devices or networks failed as often as the internet does, and were as critical to our day-to-day lives and jobs, we would never put up with it.
One caveat because fair is fair: Google's main search engine almost always works well for me. But for the rest, it boils down to money, companies don't want to spend resources on testing or customer service, they want to shove the product out the door asap, especially when they can con users into being free beta testers or fixing their own damn computers. And even if they tried, networks are so complex, so chaotic, that there would be system wide breakdowns of one kind or another anyway. The idea that the same guys who created this internet monstrosity would be the ones to fix it from the get go, so perfectly that it would work flawlessly right out of the gate is another instance of the usual laughable anti-reality mindset the GOP has become famous for.
We all know this, or should, we all know the internet has rapidly become a nearly unusable cesspool for some purposes thanks to scammers and corporate greed, we all knew Republicans would pretend not to understand any of that when it came to healthcare.gov. But given the last 50 years of IT history, there's no legit reason for progressives in the media or elsewhere to lend them a helping hand or act shocked that complex website had startup glitches.