Developer recreates Senate's new €450,000 website at no cost

"I have nothing to hide, nor am I looking for publicity," explains programer

Portraits of Spanish politicians in the Senate building.
Portraits of Spanish politicians in the Senate building.ULY MARTÍN (EL PAÍS)

An anonymous web developer has created an exact replica of the Senate's much-criticized 450,000-euro new website without spending a cent.

While the original site, which was unveiled on November 12, took three teams of experts almost a year to create, the duplicate version was created in just one week by just one man.

"This is a project with educational ends, without any other purpose than the promotion of open-source coding systems within the institutional framework," reads the opening line of the material that accompanies the replica.

As EL PAÍS reported earlier this month, several experts were shocked at the cost of the new Senate site, saying that it at least quadrupled the normal price for such commissions. The duplicate's explanatory text points out that 250,000 euros of the budget was spent on software licenses when various free open-source systems exist that could have done the same job.

"Out of the content management systems I could have chosen, I have installed the simplest: the familiar Wordpress that works using PHP and My SQL, hence the site is functional," explains the creator of the replica, E. G. H. "It could have been developed with more complex software such as Joomla, Drupal [which The White House website uses, for example] or Typo3, also free and open source, or, if a document management system was also wanted, with systems as powerful as ezPublish [as used by Interpol], Nuxeo or Alfresco. The other applications, such as the forms, the forums and the store, are created and work. As is logical, I have only put a few lines of content in each section, which are short and pasted from the original site."

A 39-year-old industrial engineer from La Rioja, E. G. H has been working as a freelancer in the internet industry since 1997 and prefers to remain anonymous. "I have nothing to hide, nor am I looking for publicity, and I don't want to get mixed up with people in the industry," he says.

"If I have decided to speak and contrast figures, it is because I have handled and managed big public administration websites. Of course, small sections, because many people work on this type of project. Nevertheless, I know how they work, and the reason for those costs," he says.

"E. G. H. has done a great job," says Sebastián Puiggrós, a web designer and developer responsible for the website of the Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA), who has analyzed the tender specifications for the Senate site. He thinks the new Senate website "is really bad, they have only just unveiled it and it already looks out of date."

Just a few hours after it went live, the Senate website was found to contain an error that allowed any web user to insert a message. The mistake was quickly fixed, but the joke messages had already traveled around the world via millions of tweets.

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