Library of Congress to retire Thomas

After 21 years of service, the legislative database and website Thomas is being retired in favor of a more modern system.

Early screenshot of the Thomas website, as captured in a Library of Congress Information Bulletin article

An early screenshot of the Thomas website, as captured in a Library of Congress Information Bulletin article.

The legislative website Thomas, a relic of the World Wide Web's early days, will be retired by the Library of Congress on July 5. The more modern website and database Congress.gov, which launched in beta in 2012, will replace it.

Thomas, named for the library's benefactor Thomas Jefferson, launched in 1995, and was from the outset intended as an online record of the proceedings of the current Congress. At the time the site was forward looking and reflected the state of the art of online technology.

But changes in IT outpaced the ability of the Library's technical staff and Congress to keep up. Users quickly pressed for changes, like a searchable archive of legislative activity on previous sessions of Congress. The site got a refresh in 2005, but ultimately Thomas couldn't support the volume and speed required by heavy users.

"I applaud the visionary leaders who launched Thomas two decades ago, and I congratulate and thank the many talented individuals at the Library and throughout the legislative branch who have transitioned that resource into the 21st century with Congress.gov," said Acting Librarian David S. Mao in a statement announcing the retirement.

Congress.gov has been the main repository of legislative information since the end of its beta testing period in late 2013. It drew 36 million page views in fiscal year 2015, according to the library. The site is a joint effort of the Library, the House, the Senate and the Government Publishing Office. GPO is also teaming up with the library to make bulk legislative information available in XML format.

Old Thomas links will by and large redirect to the same information on Congress.gov, but links that launch searches on legislative activity will likely need to be updated.

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