What does the U.S. government need with 5,300 domains? Because that’s how many there are on 18F’s complete list of .gov domains. There are plenty of oddball URLs that will have you scratching your head and wondering: What were they thinking?
Some domains have no website in place. We’re left to guess—or Google—if these parked domains were registered for campaigns that never got off the ground, initiatives that stalled during some government shutdown, or pet projects of politicians who lost favor with the voters. Other strange domains choices lead to equally strange websites.
Here are the 13 most bizarre .gov domains culled from the thousands in 18F’s list. What others did you find? Leave them in the comments.
Trying to prove every blowhard pundit right, there’s nothing at the Ideas.gov domain.
Looking at this .gov domain, you might think that Karen must be quite the expert to get her own site. Just who is this Karen and how is she so well known that she doesn’t need a last name, like Plato or Björk or Kermit?
Well, Karen actually IS an expert — on food safety for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. She’s chipper if a little tired looking. The mobile app allows constituents to ask questions anytime from anywhere — because the services of the Food Safety and Inspection Service are best used on the go.
Before you go to BestBonesForever.gov, try to imagine what you might find there: A site about the most significant archaeological discoveries in the U.S.? A clever riff on the hit TV show, Bones, showcasing the Smithsonian’s scientific innovation?
Okay, go ahead and click now. Don’t forget to come back.
Were you as confused as I was to find a website that encourages teenage girls to do activities with their best friends to improve their bone health? Even though it’s an admirable cause, there aren’t enough LOLs in the world to make bone health a hot topic at teen sleepovers. It’s probably a great campaign to reach parents though.
There’s something more than a little misguided about a consumer-protection government URL that redirects to a .com website styled like it was designed by a Nigerian spam prince. There isn’t even any identification on the dated-looking homepage that discloses the agencies behind the LooksTooGoodToBeTrue.gov/com site, namely the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.
Seriously, check out this graphic from the homepage—it looks too goofy to be trusted:
So friendly, yet so nonexistent.
Not only does NavyCash.gov sound like a phishing scam, my browser found the site so suspicious that it wouldn’t open the wesite.
One would hope that no one who works for the government would ever need a website about “How To Govern.” But, just in case, there’s a domain reserved, perhaps for freshmen Congresspeople or for post-apocalyptic survivors working to rebuild our democracy.
This domain was actually once briefly home to the GSA’s collection of best practices for digital government that has since been replaced by digitalgov.gov (which is actually a super useful site that we recommend you visit!).
Since 404 errors are what happens online when things go missing, I first thought that someone in the GSA was making a political jab by redirecting the 404.gov domain over to the Securities and Exchange Commission website.
This brings up a tip for those of you who manage websites for your agency. To avoid duplicate content and user confusion, make sure to set your preferred domain to either WWW or non-WWW and whenever possible use 301 redirects on parked domains to send people somewhere useful.
The first thing would have been for the agency that registered this site, the Department of Veteran Affairs, to put a redirect on the domain for The Second Thing, an apparently stalled campaign that would have helped veterans use the benefits they have earned.
The “4” in the Computers4Learning.gov domain makes it sound like part of a late-night TV commercial. “Make thousands of dollars a day learning computers from the comfort of your home! Private!! Discreet!!! Only pay $19.95 shipping and handling! Money back guarantee! Operators are waiting for your call! Buy Computers4Learning now!!”
Luckily, the URL redirects to the slightly more legitimate sounding ComputersForLearning.gov.
Someone is a dedicated fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd or of Reese Witherspoon rom coms. Either way, don’t expect an official government fan site at SweetHomeAlabama.gov anytime soon.
This domain is probably the result of some previous plans by the Alabama DMV, which used to offer a Sweet Home Alabama license plate.
So disappointing. There’s nary a Gandalf or Harry Potter or wonderful Wizard of Oz. It’s just the Treasury Department’s Savings Bond Wizard tool.
Actually, there may be something magical going on since, according to the site, the savings bond application works on Windows 95.
Or not. Whatever.