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Civic hacking for '100% .gov'

Re-imagining the government domain name registry experience.

By Luke Fretwell · January 21, 2022

I’m a huge proponent that all government websites should end with the .gov extension. If they don’t, the public will continue to be confused as to whether a website is legitimately managed by a government entity.

There are thousands of local government websites that should be leveraging the U.S. government’s .gov domain name services that currently don’t. At ProudCity, we’ve heard numerous stories of rogue websites created by community members that appear to be official, but are not.

Much like the HTTPS protocol, which verifies that a website is encrypted, we must build a standard that validates a website is officially government operated. While there is a role that browsers play, as they do with encryption, universal government adoption of the .gov extension is fundamental to this.

The more governments adopt .gov, the more we’ll have an understood trusted point of public sector information, and we’ll also begin to unify and standardize the fundamentals of what’s expected from a government website, such as encryption, accessibility, plain language, user-focused experiences.

The good news is that we’re hearing there’s an increased demand for .gov services. But, given the volume of government websites that still need to adopt .gov domains, we need increased advocacy and an overall more inviting user experience.

I’ve always felt the .gov registry program could be less bureacratic in its presentation and make a more welcoming and compelling case for its adoption. As we did with the COVID dashboard, my son and I built an alternative front door (repository) that attempts to do just this. To prototype a different approach, he created a .gov domain look-up tool that pulls from the data provided by .gov, and I wrote copy and designed a simple page to accompany this.

Hopefully, this is an inspiration to those who manage the .gov service that we can be less bureacratic in the .gov registry user experience. Many local governments are less technical and have little resources to apply for a process that appears to be cumbersome. The experience should be welcoming, compelling, simple and seamless.

Let’s set a goal that all U.S. government websites have a .gov extension by the end of 2023. And let’s re-imagine the experience so that we realize this ‘100% .gov’ goal.

If you are responsible for an official government website, please go .gov.