Inauguration goes social with first smartphone app

Screenshots from the Inaugural 2013 app.

Today's inauguration marks the last for President Obama, but it's a first for something else: smartphone apps.

This is the first presidential inauguration with an official app. Politico's senior technology reporter, Steve Friess, says previous inaugurations have never really been a showcase for technology.

"The idea here is that the inauguration is a traditional event," he says. "It is not the time for innovation or trying something new."

Friess notes that the Ford Model T came out in 1908, but it wasn't until 1921 that Americans got to see their president ride in one during an inauguration.

The app helps inauguration visitors guide their way through the National Mall, locates ticket booths and restrooms, and even helps users sign up for volunteer events. But Friess says the app has another side to it that has been receiving some criticism.

"If you read the fine print, what it says is that they can take all that information that you give them and they can use it for Democratic causes," he says. "And that's a capital D in Democratic."

Friess says that might not jive with inauguration goers -- many of whom are attending the inauguration not because they are Democrats, but because of the historical and patriotic significance of the event.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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