Google unveils government search portal

Google launched today a new free Web site for searching throughout federal, state and local government Web sites via its trademark interface. Google U.S. Government Search is not affiliated with the U.S. government but offers many of the same features as the government's official search portal, FirstGov.gov.

Officials at the Mountain View, Calif., search giant said the tool is targeted toward federal employees as a portal into the U.S. government that they can also tailor to their personal preferences. The Web site lets employees find government-related news relevant to their jobs, while also providing sports scores, stock quotes and news.

Users can customize the layout of the Google government page and add content from other Web sites via Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds in the same way people personalize the Google home page.

The service marks the latest Google product aimed at government agencies. The company already totes a long list of agency customers that use its search appliance and geospatial aids.

The government’s official search site, FirstGov, is powered by Vivisimo, which operates the Clusty.com search engine and Microsoft MSN Search.

Although the new government search site is not a Google/government partnership, company officials say its site and FirstGov can coexist.

“We are not trying to compete with FirstGov in any way,” said Kevin Gough, product manager of Google U.S. Government Search. “We actually think they are complementary offerings. Firstgov has a directory structure. Google U.S. Government Search focuses on Google’s core strength, which is search."

Federal employees can combine the two services by linking news feeds from FirstGov to the customizable Google U.S. Government Search home page, he added.

“The government has a lot of rich content, but people don’t know necessarily where to look. Google has a large user base,” Gough said. “We hope that this motivates [agency] Web masters to expose more of their info via RSS. We are going to ask them to format their content in a way that can be easily accessed by Google users.”

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