Understanding .us Domain Names

The federal government created a standard naming convention for local government websites. These domain names are reserved for all levels of government: city, county and state. Some governments use these names while others do not. Most governments use them in addition to a .com or .org domain name.

The beauty of this naming convention is that you can simply navigate to any government website by only knowing the state and locality. For example, our address is www.co.scott.ia.us.

The Pieces

www . co . scott . ia . us
World Wide Web. 4th Level Domain. "co" for county, "ci" for city. This is called the locality. Could be county or city. For the state government, use "state" for locality Simple two letter state abbreviation United States

The "www" stands for our World Wide Web server. Other servers could have names. An email server could be mail.co.scott.ia.us and a GIS server would be gis.co.scott.ia.us and so on. Sometimes leaving the "www" off the address will, by default, take you to the website server. However, it is good practice to use the "www".

The "co" is the fourth level domain. In our case, the "co" stands for county. For a city, this would say "ci" or "village" for village. If there was a city in Iowa called Scott, their web address would be www.ci.scott.ia.us. See the difference? In another state, Scott County, Minnesota is www.co.scott.mn.us. See the difference?

The locality in our case is "scott". There is a locality reserved for every county and city in the state. The locality "state" is reserved for state governments. When using "state", you do not need to list a "co" or "ci". For example, www.state.ia.us is the State of Iowa website.
Important Note: if there is a space in the name of the locality, such as "Iowa City", then you need to replace the space with a dash, so it reads "iowa-city".

Of course, the locality needs a state which is represented by the two letter postal code, "ia".

Finally, the "us" represents the United States.

Freely Navigate the Web

Free yourself from the search engines. Now that you know the system, you can visit virtually any government website directly. Try typing in some of these in your Address Bar. Click the back button to return to this page.

Try coming up with some of your own.

What would be Dane County, Wisconsin?

Try Saint Paul, Minnesota?

What about New York State?

.com, .org, & .net Confusion

Most government websites have catchy .com or .org names that may distinguish their pages. They may seem simple to remember at first. However, we've confused visitors of government sites with too many .com, .org, and .net combinations.

For example, if you wanted to visit the website for Boca Raton, Florida, what would you think the site would be? www.bocaraton.com? www.bocaraton.org? www.cityofbocaraton.com? www.bocaratonflorida.com? .org? .net? .. the list goes on. You can do a search a search engine such as yahoo that may result in more matches than you care to see.

The simple test is to first use the .us government addressing system. You'll find Boca Raton at www.ci.boca-raton.fl.us.

Also when using .com, you don't know if you're going to the official government site or a commercial site. For example, www.scottcountyiowa.com is an official government site, while bettendorf.com is a commercial site. Both are .com sites. How are users to distinguish?

The .us name is reserved for official governments only and therefore cannot be confused with commercial sites. The .us domain name helps to authenticate our site and email as a legitamate government source.

Although the .us naming system can be used in conjunction with a .com or .org, not every local government has done so. Those governments that don't use their .us domain name hurt the system. If your attempt at using the naming convention doesn't work, then try a search engine such as yahoo or google.

Once you know the naming convention, the World Wide Web is at your fingertips. It's great for quickly finding city or county websites. I imagine industrial and commercial site developers, and savvy tourists know the system and use it to their advantage. It's to every governments advantage to be accessible by their reserved .us address name.