Town website addresses

As discussed here and here, I sometimes think about public life in terms of three sectors:

  • Government
  • For-profit
  • Not-for-profit

These three sectors align nicely with Internet top-level domains:

  • Government = .gov
  • For-profit = .com
  • Not-for-profit = .org

I live in the town of Cambridge, Vermont. The websites for my town and the eight surrounding towns are:

That is quite a variety of website address formats!

Municipalities are part of government, and I believe they should use the .gov domain. It is misleading for a governmental entity to use a .com or .org domain. I hope that my town can change to the .gov domain in the future.

I think it is nice when the website address includes the state (“vt”), since there are many municipalities of the same name in multiple states. For example, one should not confuse my town of Cambridge, Vermont, population 3,659 in the 2010 census, with the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, population 105,162 in the 2010 census (website www.cambridgema.gov), and the home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I also think it is nice when the website address indicates what kind of municipality it is, such as “townof”, “villageof”, “cityof” or “countyof”. In the case of my town, that leaves room for “villageofcambridgevt.gov” should the village of Cambridge (which is distinct from the town of Cambridge) decide to create its own website in the future. In Vermont, there are many instances of a town and a village, or a town and a city, or a town and a county, with the same name. This convention would reduce confusion.

The conventions in the preceding paragraphs are consistent with guidance in federal regulations at 41 CFR § 102–173.55 “What is the naming convention for Cities and Townships?” (CFR = Code of Federal Regulations) issued in March 2003 and further clarified in this news release issued in September 2003 by the General Services Administration, part of the executive branch of the federal government. Quotes from the news release:

In order for Gov domains and URLs to be of value to citizens dealing with the various units of Government, we would like to evolve to predictable URLs that conform to the regulations…

In some cases, the non-conforming names may create confusion or wasted browsing for citizens seeking information.

The .gov domain only applies in the United States. Internet addresses in this domain are governed by www.dotgov.gov, a service operated by the General Services Administration. This link lets you test if a domain name is available.

The Internet address townofcambridgevt.gov is available.

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4 Responses to Town website addresses

  1. Mark Schilling says:

    I respectfully disagree.
    There is a reason that many small towns do not use .gov domain names. Basically it is the difference between $30 and $400 /yr.
    In my opinion, 400 bucks for a domain name is a testament to bloated federal government. I personally think the non-profit .org works just fine. Our Town already owns cambridgevt.org.
    I also disagree with the naming convention. I have always been a firm believer that short URLs are easier to remember and type. If the Village ever decides to have a website, the longer option would certainly be open to them.
    Signed: Your frugal Town Clerk,
    Mark Schilling – mark@cambridgevt.org
    https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/04/21/2016-09294/notice-of-fee-amounts-to-be-set-by-the-general-services-administrations-request-for-the-registration

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  2. Mark, thanks for your comments. I do appreciate your thriftiness! Economy in government is one of my values, too.

    My suggestion to change the town’s website to a .gov address in the future does call for an analysis of costs and benefits. You have identified one of the costs – the $400 annual fee to the feds.

    One of the benefits relates to your point about our “bloated federal government.” I agree wholeheartedly, and believe the same is true of state government. Where does this bloat come from? A significant reason for this bloat is how we think about the proper roles of, and boundaries between, the government sector, the for-profit sector, and the not-for-profit sector. When we aren’t careful about our thinking in this regard, the result is often that government grows and becomes bloated.

    We in Cambridge town government have little influence over the “thinking” that goes on in Montpelier and Washington. But we can promote clear thinking at the local level, starting with little things like the appropriate domain name for the town’s website.

    Different people will weigh the costs and benefits differently. For me, the benefit of clear thinking about the proper role of government is huge.

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  3. I want to thank Mark Schilling for suggesting another option that may meet both his desire to be frugal and my desire to use a .gov top-level domain. That is to have the Town of Cambridge use a third-level domain under the State of Vermont’s second-level domain under the .gov top-level domain. In other words, something like this: cambridge.vt.gov.

    This approach is contemplated in the federal regulation cited in the blog post when it says at 41 CFR § 102–173.50(c): “States are encouraged to make second-level domains available for third-level registration by local governments…”

    The following towns in Vermont currently use this convention for their municipal websites:

     

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  4. Note that cambridge.vt.gov currently redirects to townofcambridgevt.org. What is desired for a future implementation of the Town of Cambridge’s municipal website is to have townofcambridgevt.org redirect to cambridge.vt.gov.

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