The domain name gov is a sponsored top-level domain (sTLD) in the Domain Name System of Internet. The name is derived from the word government, indicating its restricted use by government entities. The gov domain is administered by the General Services Administration (GSA), an independent agency of the United States federal government.
The U.S. is the only country that has a government-specific top-level domain in addition to its country-code top-level domain. This is a result of the origins of the Internet as a U.S. federal government-sponsored research network. Other countries typically delegate a second-level domain for this purpose; for example, .gc.ca is the second-level domain for the Government of Canada and all subdomains.
Some U.S. government-related websites use .com, or .org instead of .gov, such the United States Postal Service (usps.com), various recruiting websites for armed services (e.g., goarmy.com), and the websites for many US cities (e.g., cityofchicago.org). The Department of Defense and its subsidiary organizations use the .mil sTLD instead of .gov.
All governments in the U.S. were allowed to apply for delegations in gov after May 2012. For example, domains have been registered for the city of Atlanta (atlantaga.gov), for the county of Loudoun, Virginia (loudoun.gov), and for the U.S. state of Georgia (georgia.gov). This was not always possible; under an earlier policy, only federal agencies were allowed to use the domain, and agencies below cabinet level were required to use subdomains of their parent agency. Inconsistencies exist in addressing of state and local government sites, with some using gov, some us, some using both. Pennsylvania uses www.pa.gov, www.pennsylvania.gov and www.state.pa.us for the same web site, and still others in com, org or other TLDs.
Use of the domain gov is restricted to government entities. According to GSA guidelines, this includes U.S. governmental departments, programs, and agencies on the federal level; federally recognized tribes, referred to by the GSA as Native Sovereign Nations, which must use the suffix -NSN.gov; State governmental entities and programs; cities and townships represented by an elected body of officials; counties and parishes represented by an elected body of officials; and U.S. territories.
To register a gov domain, a letter of authorization must be submitted to the GSA. For federal agencies, the authorization must be submitted by a cabinet-level chief information officer (CIO). For state governments, authorization from the governor or state CIO is required. Domains for cities require authorization from the mayor or equivalent official; for counties, authorization may be submitted by county commissioners or equivalent officials, or by the highest-ranking county official. For Native Sovereign Nations, the authorization must come from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
In November 2019, it was discovered that the process was flawed after a researcher impersonated the mayor of Exeter, Rhode Island in a letter of authorization and GSA approved the request without verification. In response, CSA said it had implemented additional fraud prevention controls to avoid a recurrence, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency launched an effort to assume control over the issuance of all gov domains.
The GSA provides guidelines for naming of second-level domains, such as those used by state and local governments. For states, the domain name must include the full state name or postal abbreviation, and the abbreviation must not be obscured by inclusion in a larger word. For example, invalid.gov for Idaho would be an unacceptable domain name. For local governments, the domain name must include the state name or abbreviation (e.g. fortworthtexas.gov or detroitmi.gov). However, several cities registered .gov domain names using only the full name of the city (such as boston.gov and seattle.gov) or a common abbreviation (e.g. phila.gov for Philadelphia and nyc.gov for New York) without reference to the state before the GSA adopted the convention; the GSA grandfathered these domains, allowing them to remain despite the new convention.
Policy regarding the gov domain is laid out in 41 CFR Part 102-173.
No new gov domains for U.S. federal executive branch departments have been allowed to be registered since[update] June 13, 2011, as a result of the implementation of Executive Order 13571 issued by President Obama. The move was part of a general attempt to improve the efficiency of U.S. governmental Web usage by weeding out unnecessary, redundant, outdated, or wasteful sites.
Since May 2012, the Federal Executive Branch has a policy of registering no new second-level domains for its agencies, except on a case-by-case basis. Agencies are also prohibited from using other top-level domains such as .org and .com. "Federal Agency domains" were also deleted on August 26, 2014.
Use by states and territories
As of February 2014[update], all states, the District of Columbia, and all territories except for the Northern Mariana Islands have operational domains in gov:
While the use of gov as a top-level domain is restricted to the United States, several other countries have second-level domains of the same name or similar semantics for governmental purposes, including: