GSA launches a short-URL service people just might trust

Go.USA.gov lets registered feds create short dot-gov Web addresses

First there was TinyURL. Then came more than 100 other ways to shorten unwieldy Web page addresses into bite-sized links.

But government Web site managers discovered that people often are reluctant to trust the shortened, random-coded links leading to federal Web sites.

A new site called Go.USA.gov aims to fix that.

Go.USA.gov lets registered federal employees convert the long addresses of government Web pages into short-form .gov links that fit easily into Twitter’s 140 characters and other services that limit the size of messages.

The new site, which has been under development by the General Services Administration since last September, is now being used by about 1,000 testers, according to Bev Godwin, head of GSA's Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement, who announced the service during the 2010 Government Web and New Media Conference in Washington this week. The service is limited to people with .gov, .mil, .fed.us, and .si.edu e-mail addresses.

Using Go.USA.gov, lengthy government Web page addresses can be converted to a branded short-from URL, rendered as http://go.usa.gov/ followed by a three-digit alpha-numeric reference code. So a recent Library of Congress blog, detailing the library’s decision to archive Twitter messages, is shortened from http://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2010/04/how-tweet-it-is-library-acquires-entire-twitter-archive/ to http://go.usa.gov/ik4.

In addition to providing the tool to shorten the URLs, Go.USA.gov also lists the top 25 most-frequently clicked links that make use of the service, Godwin said.

Creating links citizens could trust was only one of the motivations behind GSA’s decision to build its own URL-shortening tool, said Godwin.

Longevity was another reason, she said. It's impossible to predict which URL-shortening services will exist in the future. With mandates to preserve government information, Godwin she said it was essential “these (shortened) government links will be around for a long time.”

Having a dedicated service used by registered users also reduces some of the risks associated with false aliases, which have been a common problem plaguing with many shortened URLs

Godwin said GSA built the new site using Drupal, a free and open-source content management system, with the help of Kirsten Burgard, a program analyst on loan from the Veterans Administration’s Office of Information and Technology.

 

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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