Google Relaunches US Government Search, Now With Personalized Home Page

Google launched its search engine for US government information, informally
known as Google Uncle Sam, many years ago. It’s been running since
at least
1999. But now the service has received an update giving it a personalized home
page and formal branding as Google US
Government Search
.

By default, the new home page shows the weather in Washington DC (outlook:
political infighting, with mudslinging later in the week) and headlines from the
US White House, top government stories out of Google News (though a

concocted query string
), Washington Post headlines, headlines from the
American Forces Information Services and headlines from Government Executive
magazine.

As before, you can search and have results come back just from US government
web sites, along with state and local government sites in the United States.
Google’s help page
explains
more. Try

net neutrality
on Google US government search, and you’ll see how compared
to a regular Google
search
, listings disappear from Wikipedia, political groups supporting net
neutrality, news organizations reporting on the issue and other sources.
Instead, it’s just information published on government web servers in the US.
And that’s a good thing, for those who just want to home in on official
government materials.

There’s at least one glitch. The search result pages still show the old red,
white & blue Google American Flag-styled logo on the government search site, and
clicking on the logo takes you back to regular Google rather than the government
search home page.

Already have a personalized home page? One nice thing is that you can
personalize the US government search page independently of your other page.
However, searches on the US government search site do flow into your main search
history, if you have the feature enabled.

The relaunch comes on the heels of Google political moves last week. Google
tried a last-minute
lobbying attempt
for net neutrality
by cofounder Sergey Brin and an effort to
rally Google
users
to lobby for net neutrality plus harvest their names for future
political pushes.

It’s hard not to see the updated US government search service as a way to
attract government workers and insiders to a place where Google can influence
them. Google ultimately controls the personalized home page and can choose to
insert material on it any time it wants. That’s a powerful tool if many people
involved with the government start tuning into the page.

Certainly giving the Washington Post an exclusive on breaking the news helps
fuel the idea that Google’s doing a push along these lines. The Post is the only
media outlet to have been prebriefed on the release, that I can tell. That helps
ensure the story gets good play, plus causes competing print media outlets to
give the story a second day of coverage doing catch-up stories. Of course, the
Post also gets prime space on the new site, as well. That probably won’t please
some competing political news publications, though anyone can add anything to
that page manually.

By the way, to add material, look for the Add Content link in the top
left-hand side of the page. Opening that allows you to add the URL of any
publication producing an RSS feed with content, or you can also search for
matching sites of interest. Google also looks to have added a new Government
category of recommended selections, which offer a range of official sources. See
also the help
page
for more on personalization.


Google to Launch Government Search Site
is the Washington Post’s story on
the launch, with Google quotes on seeking to serve government employees and
average citizens better with it. The story also list competing government search
engines, including the official one at
FirstGov.gov
. That’s powered by Microsoft. We covered this recently here:
New Firstgov.gov
Search Database Goes Live
.

By the way, let’s clear up some URL confusion:

  • http://usgov.google.com
    is the main URL for the new site.
     
  • http://www.google.com/ig/usgov
    also works. It’s where the official URL redirects people to.
     
  • http://www.google.com/unclesam
    is the address of the old service, which is still live and works just like the
    new service, but without the personalized components. You also find it still
    listed on Google’s special searches
    page. I
    expect Google will eventually redirect this URL to the new service when they
    realize it’s still live.

Looking for more about government search engines? See the

Search Types: Government
category of our Search Topics section, available to
Search Engine Watch
members
.

Postscript: Google now has a press release on the launch up here, though it is fairly sparse. The Google Blog also has a short post here. And Google tells me the Washington Post was the only major daily/wire outlet prebriefed, though some small government trade publications also got info.

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