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June 15, 2006

Google Offers Government Web Site Search

An interesting development for researchers and others who use government web sites is the announcement from Google that it is creating a specialized portal just for those sites.  Called Google U.S. Government Search, the content ranges from federal, state, and local sources, including those government sites with .com, .mil, .us, and .edu domain suffixes.  The home page design is slightly different than other Google pages in that it presents browse links to news about the White House and other top government stories.  There are also links to stories from the Washington Post and weather for the D.C. area.  Google does allow some customization by allowing a Google account holder to add content relating to other government information from pre-selected topics.  More details about the use of the site is available in this FAQ provided by Google.

Some news stories note the competition between this site and the established FirstGov.gov site (run by Microsoft for the government).  In their usual humility on competition with Microsoft, Google says the sites are complimentary, not competitive.  Uh-huh.  We'll take that statement at face value until a track record develops between the two. 

On a speculative note, one assumes that the government has the power to edit the indexes on the FirstGov site to keep sensitive or embarrassing information from appearing as search results.  Google, being independent of the government, may give different search results as a consequence.  And unlike FirstGov, Google provides cache versions of the results.  This development has potentially pretty interesting implications for freedom of speech. 

From personal experience, I've found documents from the FCC web site that only showed up in a general Google search, and not through search from the FCC site or through links on the site.  The FCC web site, though, is a notoriously difficult site for navigation.  Google U.S. Government search is a welcome alternative to FirstGov and a site's own search.  Let the, ahem, "complementation" begin.

The address of the U.S. Government Search portal is http://www.google.com/ig/usgov.  Stories on the new service provided by Google is at TCMNet, CNET, Information Week, and the Washington Post.

June 15, 2006 | Permalink


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