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Google-ing government

Just in case you somehow missed it, Google unveiled its Google U.S. Government Search site. Here is FCW.com's story... and we'll have one in print for Monday's issue as well.

To be honest, I haven't had much time to spend on the new Google site yet. Thursday was very busy and I head off today for a wedding in Canada, but I'll get to it. Google's much underrecognized UncleSam search site was pretty much my default government search engine regardless, so if this improves on that, I'm thrilled. I liked the UncleSam name better, but... The Google.com/unclesam link now goes to the new search site, of course.

Interestingly, if you do a Google search for US Goverment Search, the top listing was... FirstGov.gov. And the Google site does seem to be competition with FirstGov and it's FirstGov Search, which is powered by MSN Search and Vivisimo. The WP story includes that assessment as well.

The Google folks told me that Google U.S. Government Search is, well, better.

Google U.S. Government Search has a larger, more up-to-date index of U.S. federal, state and local government content. People can choose to search either across government sites or the entire Web from the same search box, making it more appropriate to use as a default homepage. And there's an increased focus on personalization, with the ability to keep up to date on government and general news via content feeds from both government and commercial sources.

And yes, we did notice that one of the news sites on the current front page of the site is... er, a competitor. Grrr! I asked about this too. The Google folks told me that the items listed there are
"meant to be examples of the types of content feeds that one could add to the site. We'll see what are the most popular feeds that users are adding to the site as well as what they are removing and may then reassess our default feeds accordingly.

"Rest assured though, FCW is included as the top feed in the Technology section of the "Add content" directory. And, of course, I have it as a feed on personal homepage."

But it is interesting to see how this story has been seen in other publications.

CNet News.com Google blog writes this, in part:

FirstGov.gov, the U.S. government's official Web portal, does offer a search engine, but seems to be more of a directory of government agencies and topics. It is sectioned by "For Citizens," "For Business and Nonprofits," "Government to Government" and "Federal Employees." There is also a Spanish language version.

People who use Google's U.S. government site can restrict searches to government sites, and the results point to specific pages within those sites, not just to a home page of the appropriate government agency.

The idea is that federal employees will no longer have to start from a directory or .gov site and search for information by agency. Test searches also reveal an understanding of how government agencies are cross-connected. The results, which included many state Web sites as well as federal ones, offer a layered look at a single topic.

The Google U.S. Government Search home page is customizable like the regular Google home page. Only instead of general news it features items like White House News, American Forces Information Services, weather for Washington, D.C., and headlines from Government Executive Magazine. (Too bad "George" still isn't around. It would fit right in.)

Here is what Red Herring's Web site says:

Government by Google

Despite occasional sparring sessions with the U.S. government, the search king creates a guide to the capital.

After a number of less-than-pleasant altercations recently with the U.S. government, Google added a site Thursday devoted to U.S. government information and news to its search universe.

The site allows users to focus their searches on federal, state, and local government web sites—an extensive and complex storehouse of laws, regulations, pending legislation, and news.

Below the search box, which features the Google logo festooned with stars and stripes, the main page includes recent and breaking government news from newspapers and news services, along with press releases from government agencies.

By establishing a specialized site for government information search, Google is stepping on turf occupied by several vertical information government portals, including StartSpot Mediaworks' GovSpot.com and GovEngine's GovEngine.com

They mention two sites that I have not seen.

There is plenty to mull with Google's move. I noted in the Buzz of the Week for Monday's issue, which of us would have guessed that the big tech company was going to be a search engine? So we'll have to ponder a bit.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jun 16, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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