Trending November 2023 # What We Learned From Analyzing 98K Ranked Urls In Travel # Suggested December 2023 # Top 11 Popular

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The travel sector is one of the most competitive verticals when it comes to organic search.

Earlier this year I wrote a post looking at how travel brands can be competitive this year, and then the world went into lockdown.

That being said, the three points I raised in this post are for me now even more important than ever.

In the new landscape travel brands need to be:

Engaging with influencers on new mediums.

Being open to new audiences and markets.

Leveraging micro-moments.

It’s also important to understand the current search landscape, take any learnings, and identify any correlations between the websites ranking well on search engines versus those ranking beyond Page 2.


We took 1,000 of the most searched for travel queries in the UK from the past 3 years (to try and take into account changes in the vertical over the past 8 months).

These keywords are a combination of:

[country] holidays

car hire [location]

cheap [location] city breaks

cheap flights [location]

cheap holidays [location]

cheap hotels [location]

flights to [location]

…and other more general phrases relating to month, trip duration, and level of boarding.

We then took these keywords and exported the 98,863 search results for them.

Using a combination of tools, scripts, and manual analysis, we looked for patterns and potential learnings that could benefit other websites within the travel sector (if not further afield).

From this analysis, we can then paint a picture of what a modern travel sector SERP looks like, with correlative data to measure against.

Competitive Spread

Given the breadth of keywords, and the diversified product portfolios of a large number of travel websites, I first wanted to look at the competitive spread at how often the same websites ranked for a variety of search phrases.

In total 11,373 unique domains ranked within the sample of 98,863 results.

On average, each domain appeared 11 times within the total sample of search results, with the top three appearing 1,092 times, 1,024 times, and 958 times respectively.

Mobile Subdomains/Separate Mobile URI Paths

Notably, 89 of the 11,373 unique ranking domains were mobile subdomains/separate mobile URL paths.

As a whole sample, this represents 1,821 URLs from the total ranking set, with 236 ranking in the top 10 positions, and an average rank of 48.56.

Correlation Studies Frequency of AMP Usage & Ranking Performance

AMP has been an opinion splitting topic since it’s conception.

In the travel sector, user experience and site load speed are important and often tricky given how visual travel websites are.

Travel sites need high-resolution imagery and dynamic elements (often being loaded through JavaScript).

For some, AMP is heralded as a white horse riding in with silver bullets to resolve all the speed worries.

Based on the sample of 98,863 results, only 7,217 (6.8%) that are ranking in the top 100 are AMP pages.

Out of the 7,217 AMP URLs in this sample:

268 are on page one (positions 1-10).

44 are in the top 3 positions.

58.9 is the average rank.

So based on this sample, and this data, the two conclusions are that:

AMP is not a requirement to rank well within the travel sector.

The uptake of AMP within the travel sector isn’t high.

Rather than investing in AMP as a technology (which can be tricky given the AMP version of the page needs to be identical to the non-AMP version), you should use those resources to create a better, single, web experience with one HTML document.

Title Tags

It is relatively conclusive that a well-optimized title tag can influence and improve your chances of ranking well. In support of this are my own experiences, as well as a large number of studies that correlate this.

As part of this data set, I’ve looked for correlations between ranking position and two elements of title tag optimization:

Title tag length.

The occurrence of the ranking keyword as an exact match within the title tag itself.

Title Tag Length

The average title tag length across the 98,863 ranking URLs was 46 characters (45.72 rounded up), with an average pixel width of 413 (412.76 rounded up).

For URLs ranking in the top 10 results, the average title tag length was 52 (51.64).

One page one there were significantly fewer title tags straying over the recommended 60 characters, indicating that a conscious effort had gone into optimizing these page elements.

Target Keyword in Title Tag

We then also looked at whether the target keyword had been included within the title tag itself.

We found:

32.7% of title tags for the ranking URLs contained the keyword they ranked for.

67.3% of title tags contained variations of, or didn’t contain, the keyword at all.

For Page 1 (positions 1 to 10) ranked URLs, the number of URLs returning title tags containing the ranked keyword as an exact match increased to 46.4%.

The Modern Travel SERP

Based on this data, what can we infer that a modern-day travel SERP looks like?

We’ve known, and experienced, for a long time now that Google isn’t a linear Positions 1-10 and that it produces results and special content result blocks based on matching multiple multiple user intents.

Based on this analysis, the below indicates what a modern travel SERP will look like, based on probability of both the type of search result (commercial/non-commercial) and the frequency of Google special content result blocks, this way we can take into account the varied search intent of the queries that generated the 98,863 search results.

Across the keyword sample, a total of 10 different special content result blocks were surfaced (not including Google features such as Flights and Hotels).

The below table details how often these elements surfaced within the search results pages:

SERP Feature Chance Of Appearing Featured Snippets 2% Thumbnails 88% Knowledge Panel 2% Map 10% Local Teaser 10% News 3% Related Questions 36% Reviews 66% Video/Video Carousel 77%

Consolidating the Video and Video Carousel special content result blocks, it’s likely that video content will surface in three-quarters of searches made for travel queries, with one in three returning related questions.

The data also shows the need for using reviews (and potentially review schema) with two in three keywords surfacing review elements.

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What We Learned From Google’s Healthcare Ai Mixed Results

Now a lot of you like me are watching Westworld and are likely thinking, whew, humanity is good for at least another year, but that’s not where I’m going with this. Google developed an AI to help with diagnosis at scale, and it was impressively accurate in the lab but not so much in actual practice Thailand; in fact, the deployment at times slowed the diagnosis and didn’t speed it up. 

But this was a field test, and initial field tests often fail, but this failure wasn’t due to a problem with the AI. It was due to the nature of the deployment, and the problems are fixable and far easier to fix than it would be to create a new AI.

I think this also showcases why so many AI project fail, for what Thailand found, is what a lot of IT folks find, and that is that if you don’t understand the limitations and strengths of the AI you are deploying that lack of knowledge will cause the project to fail.

Let’s talk about deploying AIs correctly this week and why the learning Thailand, and Google, got from this trial will help assure the success of future deployments.

Understanding The Limited Power Of A Current Generation AI

While science fiction programs like Westworld imply AIs that can replace humans, we are between one and three decades away from that kind of capability.  What we have today are focused AIs that are designed, and trained, to do one thing exceedingly well.

In the case of the Google project that one thing is being able to determine, from a high-quality image, whether a patent had diabetes while, the lab the AI, which was developed by Google Health, demonstrated it could identify signs of diabetic retinopathy in 10 minutes with 90% accuracy.

This capability is vast for Thailand, where their clinics are struggling to care for around 4.5 million patients with only 200 retinal specialists.  In practice, 20% of the images were rejected, patent screening dropped to 5 per hour, and some people had to wait days for a diagnosis.

This failure means that the AI required high-speed internet and a method to take high-quality pictures of eyes to function, both hardly a surprise given how the system was trained. But, for some reason, those requirements weren’t met, and that is what resulted in the system failure.

Now the system was designed to be used by people that weren’t well trained, but the apparent assumption was that the lack of training was in medicine, not in photography. It did require that nurses implementing the tool have adequate cameras and training to take the necessary high-quality pictures. It should have never been deployed in areas with limited bandwidth.

There was one nurse who was well trained and who had adequate bandwidth, and she screened 1,000 patients with great success. It is interesting to note that those patents were okay with a machine making the diagnosis.

Wrapping Up:  AI Deployment Isn’t Multiple-Choice

This somewhat failed trail is a showcase for why you must understand the design parameters of an AI before deployment. In this case, if you can’t properly train the nurses or supply them with proper photographic equipment or you have limited bandwidth where you want the system to function, you need a different solution because this one will fail.

If you saw the Ford vs. Ferrari movie, you may recall that one of the reasons the Ford GT won the race was because the Ferrari driver pushed his car beyond the physical limits set for it and blew the engine.  Or, if you were a fan of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, one of his sayings was “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

If you understand and stay within the design parameters of the AI, you are likely to be successful; if you don’t, you’ll probably feel a bit like that Ferrari driver and maybe even hear Dirty Harry’s voice mocking you. And, my friends, that wouldn’t be a good thing.

The Weirdest Things We Learned This Week: Killer Surgeons And Mysterious Floating Feet

What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll have an even weirder answer if you listen to PopSci’s hit podcast. The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week hits iTunes, Anchor, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts every Wednesday morning. It’s your new favorite source for the strangest science-adjacent facts, figures, and Wikipedia spirals the editors of Popular Science can muster. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show. And if you like what you hear, join us for our next live show on February 1 in New York City. Tickets are on sale now, and they’re going fast.

Fact: Dozens of feet have washed up in the Pacific Northwest—and no one knows why

By Eleanor Cummins

Forget Bigfoot. These regular, human-sized feet are the scariest thing in the Pacific Northwest. On the far left coast of the United States, in the waters between northern Washington state and southern British Columbia, Canada, 21 severed feet and counting have surfaced on local beaches. Some are left, some are right; some belong to women, some to men. Some have really intact skeletons inside, some contain mush. The shoes are pretty universally ugly—and finding one is a terrifying, emotional experience. But after a decade of regular podiatric terror, we still haven’t pinpointed exactly where these feet are coming from, and the most reasonable answer is the least satisfying. Listen to this week’s show to learn more.

Fact: The ability to touch your toes has little to do with your athleticism

By Claire Maldarelli

As a middle schooler, one of my life goals was mastering the Presidential Fitness Award—an accolade given to those who passed a series of gym-class tests including pull-ups, running a mile, and, among other things, the sit and reach: A flexibility test in which one sits with their legs outstretched in a V position and reaches their fingertips as far past their ankles as they can manage. That’s where things went sour for me. I could never reach quite far enough to be a presidential fitness scholar.

It turns out that I’m not alone. I reached out to Jeffrey Jenkins, who is a physiologist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. And he shed some light on what actually determines a person’s ability to touch their toes.

As Jenkins explained to me, the three biggest factors that contribute to successfully touching your toes are the flexibility of your hamstrings, the range of motion of your hip joints, and the relative length of your arms and your torso to your legs. To a certain degree, you also need to have a flexible spine. The thing is, not all of these are under your control, nor do they determine how healthy or physically fit you are. Having the right combo of these physical characteristics only does one thing: Help you win meaningless achievements like the Presidential Fitness Award.

But if you’re determined to inch closer to touching your toes, listen to the podcast for some special tips.

Fact: Surgery used to be so dangerous that an operation on one patient could kill multiple people

By Rachel Feltman

Lovers of internet trivia and Wikipedia-fueled lore may be familiar with the tale of Robert Liston: according to some medical historians, this 19th-century surgeon once completed a surgical procedure with a 300 percent mortality rate. One patient walked in and three corpses were rolled out. It’s a shocking tale, to be sure, but I couldn’t help but wonder—was it too gruesomely good to be true?

Here’s the supposed story: Liston, renowned as a remarkably fast surgeon (which was basically the only thing a surgeon had going for them, in the days before anesthesia) was performing an amputation. In his rush to severe the limb as swiftly as possible, he also happened to slice off the fingers of his unfortunate assistant. This, as I explain in the episode, is totally plausible. Then, the story goes, both the patient and the surgical assistant got gangrene and died. That’s two fatalities for the price of one! And again, as I explain in the podcast, this is totally believable and probably happened more than once. The third death is the fishiest: according to legend, one of the many people observing the procedure got the (literal) shock of his life when Liston, covered in blood and leg-meat and severed fingers, accidentally snagged the man’s jacket with his knife. I couldn’t find any primary source for this oft-referenced death by fright-induced heart failure, but that isn’t to say I think it’s impossible. After all, how would you react if you watched a surgeon cut his colleague’s hand off and then thought he was turning on you?

If you like The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week, please subscribe, rate, and review us on iTunes (yes, even if you don’t listen to us on iTunes—it really helps other weirdos find the show). You can also join in the weirdness in our Facebook group and bedeck yourself in weirdo merchandise from our Threadless shop. And don’t forget to snag tickets for our live show on February 1 in NYC.

What We Need To See In A Surface 2 Tablet

The date’s set, and the invites are signed, sealed, and delivered: It looks like we’ll get our first glimpse of Microsoft’s second-generation Surface tablets on September 23.

At first glance, the Surface lineup seems desperate for a refresh. Windows tablet sales have yet to take off, and the Surface line alone dealt Microsoft some staggering financial losses over the past year. But don’t let that fool you! Microsoft’s tablets are actually remarkably well-engineered pieces of kit, from their sleek VaporMg exteriors to the Surface Pro’s speedy, Ultrabook-level firepower.

That doesn’t mean the Surface is perfect, though. Here’s what we need to see in the Surface Pro 2 and the second-generation Surface RT.

Both models: lower pricing

The original Surfaces just cost too much.

The Surface RT debuted at an iPad-mirroring $500, despite the fact that Windows RT’s app ecosystem is nowhere near as rich as Apple’s. The cheapest Surface Pro, meanwhile, cost a wallet-busting $900—and no, neither shipped with a must-have Touch Cover, which were sold separately for $120. That’s far too rich for mainstream blood, especially now that the Surface RT carries the stench of failure, rather than prestige.

The second-gen Surface tablets should ship with the buyer’s choice of a free Touch or Type Cover included.

All is not lost, however: Surface RT sales have exploded since the slates were reduced to $350. If Microsoft wants the second-generation Surface slates to sell well, the recent price reductions should carry over to the new hardware. If Microsoft really wants Surface RT 2 slates to move, they need to be in the $250-$300 range.

And yes, those prices should include gratis Touch or Type Covers. An IHS iSuppli report estimated it costs Microsoft a mere $16 to $18 to produce one of the keyboard accessories. Unfortunately, most experts and rumors say that second-generation Surface pricing should remain relatively static.

Both models: a more flexible kickstand

Image: Robert CardinBe flexible, Surface. And I mean that literally.

The original Surface slates sported a kickstand that locked the tablets at a 22-degree angle. That’s great when you plop the hardware on a standard-height table, but not so great when you’re trying to use it on your lap. Early rumors suggest the second-generation Surface tablets will feature two different kickstand angles; that’s a good start, but I’d like to see a wider range of orientation options.

Surface Pro hardware

PCWorld’s review of the Surface Pro called it “the best pure Windows tablet,” thanks to its mixture of killer design and potent PC-grade hardware. But those capable components also worked against the Surface Pro, which was chunky and almost appallingly short-lived compared to Android tablets and the iPad.

“Primarily what I expect to see is hardware that delivers better performance and better battery life, ideally with less weight,” says Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. “Design-wise, it appears Microsoft is staying the course with the same landscape-based design seen in the first generation of Surfaces.” Microsoft’s first-gen Surface Pro.

The Surface Pro 2 seems like a natural fit for Intel’s Haswell Core processors, which have done wonders for the MacBook Air’s endurance.

Rumors indeed suggest the Surface Pro 2 is getting a Haswell processor, which reportedly adds 2 extra hours to the original version’s 5-hour endurance. Seven hours of battery life still isn’t a full day, but it’s close. A “Battery Cover” keyboard accessory—first hinted at by Surface honcho Panos Panay in a February Reddit AMA—could supply even more juice.

The plastic pen that shipped with the original Surface Pro.

No other hardware elements are really clamoring to be changed on the Surface Pro—though it’d be nice if the included stylus were clad in magnesium instead of plain old plastic.

Surface RT hardware

The original Surface RT, while still draped in the same design principles of the Surface Pro, landed on the opposite end of the performance spectrum. Its all-day endurance made the tablet an Office-wielding force to be reckoned with (for some people), but the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor inside made performance feel pokey after a few months of use.

The Surface RT needs more detailed eye candy. The 1366-by-768 display may have been tolerated with netbooks, but it doesn’t cut it in a tablet.

Already thin and trim, the Surface RT 2—or simply “Surface 2,” if the early rumors about the slate’s dropping the toxic “RT” moniker are correct—mainly needs a shot in the arm, hardware-wise. The tablet has been linked to both Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor and Nvidia’s Tegra 4, either of which would provide plenty of pep. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Tegra 4 in the Wi-Fi version and a Snapdragon 800 in a LTE-equipped model, as the Surface RT 2 is just begging for a mobile data connection.

The Surface RT 2 needs some skin-deep beauty, too, and by that I mean a better display. The original Surface RT’s 10.6-inch, 1366-by-768-pixel display is far inferior even to the screens on the $200 Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD. Make it full 1080p to match the Surface Pro, please. (If the resolution were much higher than that, it’d be difficult to use the desktop.)

Both models: more refined software

A Surface tablet running the Bing Food & Drink app new to Windows 8.1.

Expect both Surface slates to be released in late October, packing Windows 8.1. Windows 8.1 smoothes over Windows 8’s roughest edges and is a lesson in course correction, but even that isn’t enough to make Windows 8 truly compelling. Windows RT should ditch the desktop entirely, while the Surface Pro 2 should intelligently default to either the desktop or the Modern UI, depending on whether you’ve attached your slate to an external monitor. And could we get some compelling Windows Store apps, please?

But wait! This article is about potential Surface improvements in particular. If you want to read our suggestions for how a new Microsoft CEO could breathe new life into Windows, well, that’s a whole ’nother story.

What To Expect From Smartphone Cameras In 2023

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

2023 is over, and it was an interesting year for camera phones. We saw mid-range devices embracing features like 108MP cameras and astrophotography modes, flagship phones putting ultrawide cameras on almost equal footing with primary lenses, and more camera industry brands teaming up with manufacturers. Even Google updated its hardware with the Pixel 6 series after years of 12MP sensors.

With all of this in mind, what does 2023 mean for mobile cameras? We take a look at a few potential smartphone camera trends to expect in the year ahead.

Related: The best selfie camera phones you can buy

Nevertheless, we’re expecting under-display cameras to get much better in 2023, as some of the big-name manufacturers got to grips with the tech in 2023 and are no doubt improving the hardware and algorithms for new generation efforts. We wouldn’t bet on all the major flagships having this feature though.

Cinematic mode comes to Android

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

One of the big selling points of the iPhone 13 series is Cinematic Mode, which is effectively a smarter portrait video mode. Sure, portrait video isn’t new, as we’ve seen HUAWEI and Samsung offer this option already. But Apple’s take includes automatically focusing on a subject when their face is detected, tracking subjects, and more.

We have no doubt that some Android OEMs will copy Apple’s take on Cinematic Mode. But will everyone have Cinematic Mode by 2023? That’s far from guaranteed. After all, several brands copied 3D Touch, and we know how that eventually turned out.

We’ll see RGBW cameras again

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

OPPO Find X3 Pro

We first saw RGBW camera sensors coming to smartphones in 2023 when HUAWEI launched the P8. OPPO also followed up with phones containing these sensors in 2023 and 2023. Conventional camera sensors have color filters containing red, green, and blue subpixels. But RGBW sensors add white subpixels to the mix, promising better light intake and less noise.

Stabilization to take a step up

Optical image stabilization (OIS) has been a must-have on higher-end smartphones for years now, dating back to devices like the Nokia Lumia 920. But we’ve seen several companies take things even further in recent years, such as vivo with its micro-gimbal stabilization tech and Apple with sensor-shift stabilization.

vivo is expected to continue the micro-gimbal push in 2023, while Samsung is tipped to bring OIS to its mid-range Galaxy A series. OPPO also demonstrated its so-called five-axis OIS tech earlier in 2023, saying it would debut in Q1 2023. In other words, it looks like better stabilization, especially in more affordable phones, could be another big trend this year.

Variable telephoto to be more popular?

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Sony had one of the more notable technical achievements in 2023 when it launched phones with variable telephoto cameras. The feature, found on the Xperia 1 III and 5 III, shows that you don’t necessarily need two separate telephoto cameras if you want great zoom performance.

Typical telephoto and periscope cameras shoot at a fixed zoom factor, with everything in between being hybrid zoom assisted by software. Sony went one better though, featuring a telephoto camera capable of natively shooting at 2.9x and 4.4x for the best quality (although Sony’s implementation wasn’t perfect).

The downside to this solution is that it still relies on hybrid zoom for interstitial zoom factors, but it makes for a higher quality, more flexible zoom experience on paper than relying on one telephoto or periscope camera.

Better 8K video

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

8K video recording first came to phones in 2023, when the REDMAGIC 3 offered pretty disappointing 8K/15fps capabilities. Thankfully, 2023 saw a huge improvement thanks to the Snapdragon 865 series of chipsets, offering native 8K/30fps support. This trend has only continued in 2023, as many flagship phones tout 8K support.

We’re expecting 8K video recording to gain a quality boost in 2023. It’s probably a little too early for 8K/60fps capabilities, but the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset indeed supports 8K HDR for improved picture quality.

Custom imaging chips


Smartphones typically rely on an image signal processor (ISP) within their phone’s chipset to process pictures. For example, phones using Snapdragon chipsets generally use the Spectra ISP. But we’ve also seen a trend in 2023 for brands to use their own custom ISP instead.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen companies offering custom imaging chips, as Google’s flagships from 2023 onwards have offered custom imaging silicon too. And the firm stepped up its game in this regard with the Pixel 6 series. So we wouldn’t be surprised if Google, OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi, and perhaps more brands continue this smartphone camera trend in 2023.

The return of object erasing

Google’s Pixel 6 series is also bringing a host of interesting camera features to the table, but it’s the Magic Eraser mode that finds its way onto our list. Yes, Google is joining Samsung and HUAWEI in offering an object erasing mode, allowing you to remove photobombers or specific items in a scene. Oddly enough, Google actually first demonstrated a take on this feature back in 2023, so it’s been a long time coming.

It’s a decent bet that Google’s decision to include this feature could push companies like Xiaomi, OPPO, and OnePlus to implement their own object eraser mode in 2023. After all, Google offered an astrophotography mode in 2023 that’s since been copied by the likes of realme and vivo. Then again, the company offered a Cinematic Pan mode last year that hasn’t been copied by anyone.

The Pixel 6 phones also offer Motion Mode and Face Unblur functionality, adding motion blur to images and deblurring faces respectively. So we could see rival brands adopting these features too.’s Problems: What We Know So Far

More than a month after it went live, a couple of large questions remain about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ botched launch of

The problems appear related to a number of factors, but HHS officials have talked little about the specific technology problems.

A basic question: What is is a key piece of the Affordable Care Act, the law often called Obamacare, passed by Congress in 2010. The website is one way for uninsured U.S. residents to shop for new health insurance plans, although people can also apply through the mail, on the phone and at some in-person locations. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are running their own health insurance marketplace websites, while 34 states, including Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, opted to be part of the chúng tôi marketplace.

One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act was to open up pooled insurance markets where people without insurance could shop for inexpensive insurance plans. The law prohibits participating insurance companies from rejecting applicants because of pre-existing conditions, and it bans lifetime limits on insurance benefits.

HHS officials say they have committed $630 million to the website. Many of the fixes happening now will be including in the money paid to contractors to build the site, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a Senate hearing Wednesday. is made up of two main components, the data hub and the marketplace, or exchange.

The hub, which experienced problems in the first couple of days after launch but has been generally stable since then, helps verify applicants’ eligibility for insurance coverage and for subsidies. The hub provides a connection to federal data sources needed to verify consumer application information for income, citizenship and immigration status, among other things. It does not store any information, and is not a database.

The marketplace, or exchange, is the part of the website where users can apply for insurance coverage and compare plans available. Many of the site’s continued problems appear to be related to the marketplace.

Questions about the site’s problems

The specific technology problems remain a mystery, with HHS officials speaking in general terms during briefings and congressional testimony. One of the main problems appears to be software and database integration issues.

Still, there are some other problems we can piece together, based on press briefings from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and congressional testimony from contractors, Sebelius and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

Problem No. 1: No contractor overseeing the entire site. No contractor was responsible for the entire site functioning properly, until CMS hired systems integrator QSSI for that role in mid-October. CMS had taken on the role of site functionality before launch, representatives of contractors QSSI and CGI Federal told lawmakers at an Oct. 24 hearing.

Problem No. 2: Last-month changes. Executives with QSSI and CGI Federal, one of the primary contractors on the project, told lawmakers that CMS officials may have added to problems when they abandoned some site functionality within two weeks of launch. The agency made a decision to require website users to register before browsing for insurance plans because of concerns that the unregistered browsing functionality would not be ready by Oct. 1, according to the contractors and HHS officials. That decision likely led to the site’s registration system getting slammed by users in the first days after launch, the contractors said.

Problem No. 3: Inadequate testing. In addition, QSSI and CGI Federal have said the site wasn’t adequately tested before launch. The chúng tôi team spent about two weeks testing the site, when CGI “would have liked to have months” to test how the multiple pieces of the project worked together, said Cheryl Campbell, a senior vice president for the company.

Questions about the site’s security

Republican critics of the Affordable Care Act have raised repeated questions about the security of the site. CMS officials did not run an end-to-end security test on the site before it launched, although they tested individual components. Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, has questioned whether CMS is adequately testing new code as contractors continually make fixes through this month.

Sebelius and Tavenner have defended the website’s security, saying that contractor Mitre has continually tested the site for security holes. The website complies with Federal Information Security Management Act [FISMA] and U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] security standards, and the site is using many of the same security practices as those used on chúng tôi they said.

Still, there was one report this month of the website sharing a user’s insurance application information with a second user. HHS officials said they fixed the code after finding out about the problem.

So far, that appears to be the only security-related problem reported, but critics continue to raise concerns about the security of data at the website.

Questions about the number of insurance enrollments

CMS has not released the number of people whose applications for insurance coverage have been successfully processed. CMS officials say they will release the first set of numbers next week. Officials are still trying to get accurate totals, Sebelius said this week.

As of Oct. 25, about 700,000 U.S. residents have completed applications for health insurance, CMS officials said, but many of those applications still need to be processed. About half of those applications have come through chúng tôi and about half through the state-run insurance exchanges.

In the first month of chúng tôi about 13 million people visited the website, Tavenner said this week.

CMS has predicted sign-ups in the first weeks of a six-month enrollment period would be slow, based on early enrollment numbers when Massachusetts roll out a similar insurance program in 2006. There’s some evidence that the number early enrollments have been extremely slow.

During a Senate hearing this week, Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said only three people in her state had managed to sign up for new coverage through chúng tôi as of Oct. 29.

In addition, Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, released meeting notes from the chúng tôi team saying just six people were able to enroll on Oct. 1 and 248 had enrolled in the website’s first two days.

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