Google unveils government search portal

Today, Google launched a new, free Web site for searching across federal, state and local government Web sites via Google's 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 their tool is primarily targeted at federal employees as a portal into the U.S. government that can also be tailored to the employee's personal preferences for work and play. The Web site lets employees find government-related news relevant to their jobs, while also tuning in to personal items of interest, such as sports scores, stock quotes and online newspapers.

Users can customize the layout of the Google government page and add content from other Web sites via RSS feeds, exactly the way people currently personalize the Google homepage.

The service marks the latest Google product aimed at government agencies. The company already totes a long list of agency customers that use the Google 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

While the new government search site is not a Google-government partnership, Google officials say the two sites can co-exit.

Kevin Gough, the product manager of Google U.S. Government Search, said, 'We are not trying to compete with FirstGov in any way. 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."

He added that federal employees can easily combine the two services by linking news feeds from FirstGov to the customizable Google U.S. Government Search homepage.

'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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