Ensuring the Quality of Go.USA.gov URLs

We created Go.USA.gov to let government employees create short, trustworthy URLs for use on Twitter and other online services with character restrictions. It is extremely important to us that individuals who click on these short URLs know that they will always be led to trustworthy government information. To accomplish this, we employ two security restrictions:

  • Go.USA.gov registration is limited to people with email addresses in U.S. government top level domains: .mil, .gov, .fed.us, and .si.edu email addresses.
  • Only URLs in U.S. government top level domains can be shortened with Go.USA.gov

We've received a few questions about these policies and want to explain the rationale behind them.

Why we restrict user registration

To date, we've only allowed people with certain government email addresses to register for a Go.USA.gov account because these email addresses act as qualifiers. Public servants are required to undergo a variety of vetting processes before they're given a government email address. This gives us some assurance that they will use Go.USA.gov appropriately.

We recognize that this excludes a large segment of public servants at different levels of government who don't have access to .mil, .gov, .fed.us, or .si.edu email addresses. We're currently working on ways to open Go.USA.gov to all levels of government.

If you are a government employee who would like to use Go.USA.gov, but are unable to register, please write us and let us know.

Why we restrict URLs

Restricting the kinds of URLs that Go.USA.gov shortens is currently the best option we have to ensure that every single Go.USA.gov URL will lead to official government information. We understand it's frustrating that useful government information hosted on other domains cannot be shortened. But it also effectively prevents the creation of Go.USA.gov URLs that redirect to malicious or inappropriate domains.

While we restrict user registration on Go.USA.gov, we cannot ensure that every single user will use it appropriately or effectively guard their login information. Restricting URLs assures a level of consistency and security across all Go.USA.gov URLs, even in the off chance that an individual user's account is compromised.

It's worth repeating: our concern about user experience was a major motivator in the creation of Go.USA.gov. Most short URLs do not provide clues about their destination. We apply restrictions to Go.USA.gov URLs in order to make them more meaningful. This is what distinguishs us from other freely available URL shortening services. This does not mean, however, that we are not working to modify some of these restrictions in the future.

We're grateful for the feedback we've received on Go.USA.gov and are constantly working to improve the service. Please contact us at any time to tell us how you'd improve Go.USA.gov.