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25 Percent of Federal Web Domains Unreachable, Analysis Finds

Nearly a quarter of federal websites can't be accessed by Web users.

Approximately 25 percent of top-level federal Web domains can’t be accessed by Web users, according to an unofficial analysis released on Sept. 7.

The analysis examined 1,761 federal government domains using a tool called Site Inspector, which provides detailed information about a website and its capabilities. Benjamin Balter, a new media fellow at the Federal Communications Commission and a law student at The George Washington University, conducted the analysis and also created Site Inspector.

In comments made to Nextgov, Balter admitted that the unreachable sites may be due to progress achieved by federal agencies on the White House goal to reduce government websites over the next year, or simply could be due to sites being temporarily down.

“This [data set] is nothing to bet the house on,” Balter told Nextgov’s Joseph Marks. “But it should give a general picture of where things are.”

According to Balter’s blog, he imported the list of federal domains into the WordPress content management system (CMS), created a plugin application called “Domain Inventory” and scanned each domain for a variety of information. Information examined included whether the site is reachable, if it supports IPv6, if the sites use CMS, if the domains are hosted in the Cloud and other factors.

Some of the findings included:

•    Only 71 percent of the domains are live and in-use
•    Only nine sites fully support the IPv6 standard
•    Only 13 sites are believed to be in the Cloud
•    A majority of the domains (70 percent) have no detectable CMS, or use a custom-built solution

In an e-mail to Government Technology, Michele Hovet, CIO of Arvada, Colo., said that it would have been interesting if accessibility was one of the factors evaluated, so there was a baseline on where federal government websites are in that regard.

She also felt that if a comparative analysis were done on state and local government websites, the results may somewhat mirror Balter’s federal results.

“I would guess state and locals may show similar statistics, but I also think sometimes the smaller you are, the easier it is to catch these types of issues,” Hovet said.

Balter initially agreed to an interview with Government Technology to discuss his analysis, but later reconsidered, saying “nothing secretive, just best I don’t comment.”

Macon Phillips, White House new media director, wasn’t shy in promoting Balter’s findings, however. He tweeted that the analysis was “really helpful.”