Dot-gov no longer just for feds

'Basically GSA had to come up with a standard to make it equitable. It just took two years to get it done.'

'Alisoun Moore, Montgomery County, Md., CIO

Steve Barett

The complicated, long and unmarketable Web addresses many state and local governments have been forced to use for years are no longer forced on them. States are no longer limited to using addresses such as Vermont's www.state.vt.us or Riverside County, Calif.'s www.co.riverside.ca.us.

State and local Web addresses now can be easier, simpler and much more recognizable after the General Services Administration recently issued a final rule to set the standards by which nonfederal government entities can use the .gov domain.

'It is important for us to have the .gov domain because it is much simpler to use and helps us give citizens one face of government,' said Montgomery County, Md., CIO Alisoun Moore, who pushed GSA for the change. 'A single suffix is much nicer than the other ones.'

As state and local governments began creating Web sites in the mid-1990s, any government entity could use the .gov domain, but soon GSA restricted the use of it to federal agencies and departments. Certain states did not give their addresses up, such as Washington, which held onto www.access.wa.gov, but most ended up with more complicated URLs.

Other state and local governments such as Alabama, Delaware and Michigan have applied for the .gov domain from GSA and received permission to switch. Some states have reserved their domain names but have not yet switched, and still other states or cities have used the .com domain, such as Virginia Beach, Va., www.vbgov.com, and Florida's www.myflorida.com for their official sites.

Moore and her colleagues across the states started pushing GSA to change the rule and create standards for use of .gov more than two years ago at a National Association of State CIOs conference in Baltimore.

'Basically, GSA had to come up with a standard to make it equitable,' Moore said. 'It just took two years to get it done.'

In a final rule published in the Federal Register, GSA outlined how government entities can identify themselves with the domain.

GSA set limits on how much it may charge for .gov setup and yearly maintenance. It restricted costs to no more than $1,000 to set up the domain name and $500 annually for maintenance. GSA now does not charge for those services but reserves the right to do so in the future, the agency said.

GSA also will review the domain names every two years to make sure state and local governments are meeting the conditions of use outlined by the federal government.

State and local governments interested in moving to the .gov domain should place their full state name or postal abbreviation within the name, such as www.virginia.gov or NMparks.gov. GSA said there is no limit to how many names a state can register.

Counties and cities can use the domain by including their state's postal abbreviation in the Web address, such as Chicago-il.gov or www.Detroitmi.gov, GSA said.

What a difference .gov makes

Moore moved her county's site to www.montgomerycountymd.gov in November after applying for the address two years ago, and she said it has made a huge difference.

'We want to spider to federal sites, especially GSA's Firstgov.gov portal,' Moore said. 'Citizens now can see the wide variety of services at all levels of government.'

Agencies can register online at www.nic.gov. To view the final rule, visit a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2003/03-7413.htm.

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