The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

OMB Plan Could Orphan Documents

Stable URLs Are Needed to Provide Lasting Value to Documents

Take, for instance, the White House Office of Management and Budget plan announced earlier this week to drive government efficiencies by eliminating half of the 2,000 top-level .gov domain sites within a year. Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients says many government websites are redundant, outdated, hard to use and poorly maintained. "This duplication not only can cause confusion, but also waste taxpayers dollars," Zients says.

Makes sense, especially considering the plan could eliminate tens of millions of dollars, perhaps more, in spending (see Feds to Purge Half of Websites). But there could be negative consequences because more and more Internet users don't download files to store on their computer but bookmark their locations to access them when needed. This is especially true of those who use mobile devices, a rapidly growing population in the Internet universe. It's also a concern expressed this week by the United States Association for Computational Mechanics, which calls on the White House to use the initiative to reduce .gov sites to also establish ways to provide stable URLs for all documents so they may be of lasting value.

Without stable links, website reorganization can prevent users from finding previously accessible document 

"These public documents should have stable URLs that will not go out-of-date or 'break' as sites are dropped, moved, consolidated or renamed," the association's Digital Government Committee said in a statement. "Without stable links, website reorganization can prevent users from finding previously accessible documents. While search engines can mitigate this problem, any plans for website reorganization must address the stability issue. This is particularly important for online government documents that set standards or make laws, which may require accessibility through archival connections."

I contacted OMB on Thursday to get a response to the association's concern, and I'll share its answer if and when it's received.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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