The federal government has launched a publicly accessible URL shortener in collaboration with popular short URL site bit.ly. Called 1.usa.gov, the URL shortener automatically creates a short address for any .gov or .mil URL entered into bit.ly, j.mp or a government portal.
Integrated functionality is expected to be announced shortly for mobile platforms and popular Twitter applications like TweetDeck and Seesmic.
A URL shortener accessible only to federal employees, go.usa.gov was launched in 2010. While any member of the general public can access go.usa.gov links, only federal employees may create links with the service. 1.usa.gov, however, is publicly accessible; anyone who uses bit.ly can create a 1.usa.gov shortlink.
1.usa.gov is currently in soft launch mode and only accessible through
bit.ly and services using bit.ly’s API at
press time. Other brand-specific URL shorteners include the New York Times
(nyti.ms), Facebook (fb.me) and NPR (n.pr).
Jed Sundwall, a consultant for usa.gov, the federal government’s official web portal, told TPM that the new URL shortener is powered by bit.ly:
It’s powered by bit.ly’s enterprise service. USA.gov first started talking to bit.ly about it in May 2010. Most the discussions revolved around whether or not to do it, then the best way to go about it, which URL to use, getting feedback from other government web managers, and deciding on terms of service that were acceptable to bit.ly and the General Services Administration …
Bit.ly uses a Libyan web domain, which has generated some controversy. However, the company disclaims any connection beyond paying for a Libyan domain name (bit.ly did not respond to emailed queries by press time). According to a FAQ published by the General Services Administration (GSA), “We use .gov URLs, and none of the servers that power this service (or any of Bit.ly’s servers) are located in Libya.”
The launch of 1.usa.gov is part of a continuing effort to make the federal government available via social media and to ease the use of online resources for federal employees. According to Sarah Crane, acting director of usa.gov, the previous go.usa.gov URL shortener has had considerable success:
The GSA is delighted by both the use, comments and reception Go.USA.gov has received from the web manager community. To date, there are over 3,900 registered government users who have shortened over 47,000 links. These links have over 10 million clickthroughs, so it’s proving an incredibly useful tool for government to extend messages through social media. The metrics associated with Go.USA.gov offer great insight into what the public finds interesting, being able to track click through rates for .gov, .edu and .mil URLs in social media provides a snapshot of what content really engages users.
Go.usa.gov will continue to operate for federal employees.