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'Government made easy' is their mission statement

August 25, 2008

by Mark Ollig

It is billed as the “US government’s official web portal” where anyone can obtain official information and services from the US government.

Called “USA.gov” it serves as the doorway for a growing electronic government.

Originally this web site was known as “FirstGov.gov.”

In January of 2007, FirstGov.gov officially changed its name to USA.gov.

The idea of USA.gov is to make it easy for the public to get US government information and services on the web.

I spent some time on this web site and found it an abundant source of online information, services, and resources.

USA.gov is a program overseen by the US General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications.

It is interesting to note the USA.gov web site actually got its start with Internet entrepreneur Dr. Eric Brewer, whose early research was funded by the Department of Defense.

In 2000, Dr. Brewer founded the Federal Search Foundation, an organization focused on improving consumer access to government information.

Also in 2000, Dr. Brewer donated his powerful and pioneering online Inktomi search engine to the government for a three year period. This led to the start of project FirstGov.gov.

In June of 2000, President Clinton announced the donation of the Inktomi search engine from the Federal Search Foundation – which was the organization established by Dr. Brewer – and instructed that an official US “web portal” be launched within 90 days.

Starting in September of 2000, Dr. Brewer had the official backing of President Clinton, who endorsed project FirstGov.gov in partnership with The US General Services Administration.

Even then Vice-President Al Gore (not the inventor of the Internet) had connections with the start of this new government web site through his association with the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

It is Dr. Brewer, though, who is given credit for his support and efforts in creating the first official public government web site of the United States.

USA.gov went online on September 22, 2000 under the original name of FirstGov.gov.

The US General Services Administration and 22 federal agencies funded this project in 2001 and 2002.

Since 2002, this “web portal” has received yearly funding from the US Congress.

Today, Dr. Brewer is a professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkley.

His current work includes incorporating technology for the developing regions in the world.

Once you visit the USA.gov web site – trust your humble columnist here – you will not have any problem finding enough information.

There are links to every federal government department and to each state government web site, as well.

You can also sign up for updated USA.gov content via RSS feeds and e-mail newsletters.

USA.gov lists literally hundreds of US government departments and agencies in an A-Z index.

Just some of the features you have access to on USA.gov includes: genealogy and family history research, voting and elections information and federal resources for educational excellence.

You can also watch online videos from the US Government.

One interesting resource of “official information and services from the US government” you will want to check out is the consumer guides and protection link.

Here is a “tiny url” link for it: http://tinyurl.com/2cqe2g.

Readers have e-mailed me asking what these “tiny url’s” are all about.

There is a web site which provides a free service to make posting long URLs easier.

As you remember, a URL stands for “Uniform Resource Locator,” which is the Internet address you type into your web browser to take you to a specific web page.

This web site: http://tinyurl.com, allows a person to enter or paste in a long URL in a text field. The web site – at the click of your mouse – will then create a “tiny” or “shortened” URL which never expires.

The tinyurl.com web site converts long URL links into short, compact and easy to use URLs.

This a convenient way to reduce the amount of characters in a long URL or Internet address.

It is great for sending an e-mail link to information you have found without having to include those sometimes very long URL addresses which seem to run on forever.

My readers may have noticed I have been using them more in the column and on the Web Site of The Week online forum, too.

When I come across a long Internet link or web address I want to send in an e-mail, I will copy the URL and then go to tinyurl.com, paste it into the text field and just click to convert it to a significantly shortened URL.

I am seeing more Internet links being referenced with tiny url’s.

Having a shorter URL makes it much easy to type into your web browser, too.

If you want to try it out for yourself, visit http://tinyurl.com.

It seems you have just read a separate column on tiny url’s this week ,as well as a little bit about the government’s informational web site located at: http://www.USA.gov.

Be sure to check out the latest “Web Site of The Week” where I will present more information and pictures from the USA.gov web site.