Congress.gov, the new THOMAS, launched in beta
The Library of Congress unveiled a new Web search tool for bills and other Congressional records Wednesday that will eventually replace the 17-year-old Thomas.gov website.
- Congress.gov. Also see: About page.
Congress.gov makes federal United States legislative information freely available to the public. Launched Sept. 19, 2012, this version of the site is an initial beta release of Congress.gov, created as a successor to THOMAS.gov, the current public site for legislative information. The Congress.gov beta site contains legislation from the 107th Congress (2001) to the present, member of Congress profiles from the 93rd Congress (1973) to the present, and selected member profiles from the 80th through the 92nd Congresses (1947 to 1972). Over the next two years, Congress.gov will be adding information and features, eventually incorporating all of the information currently available on THOMAS.gov.
- Smartphone friendly, congressional search site unveiled, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (Sep 19, 2012).
- Congress launches THOMAS successor Congress.gov, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (Sept. 19, 2012)
What's noticeable about this evolving beta website, besides the major improvements in how people can search and understand legislative developments, is what's still missing: public comment on the design process and computer-friendly bulk access to the underlying data.
Here is another story:
- What Congress.gov Means for a Congressional API, by Nick Judd and Miranda Neubauer TechPresident (September 19 2012)
"I'm impressed," said Josh Tauberer, whose GovTrack scrapes data from THOMAS to provide it in a machine-readable form for other websites like OpenCongress, in an email. "From its new faceted search to its mobile-friendly HTML, they really hit the technology on the nail. And there's more explanation for people who aren't legislative pros. They may be slowly catching up to GovTrack.
"This new site shows that the LOC actually has the technical chops to implement raw data properly, which was a serious concern of mine before," Tauberer also wrote.
That said, Tauberer pointed out that the new site offers "no new actual information." House leadership has promised to offer access to the underlying data that fuels THOMAS and has repeatedly expressed a commitment to doing it. They just haven't committed to doing it during this Congress. And the lack of action on something that seems to them to be eminently doable has advocates kind of frustrated.
Gayle Osterberg, Director of Communications for the Library of Congress, seemed to indicate in an email that the Library of Congress is ready to cooperate. They just need Congress — meaning the House and Senate both — to give them the go-ahead.
- Congress.gov Beta: An Early Look at a New THOMAS, by Peggy Garvin, InfoToday, (September 27, 2012).
The Congress.gov beta is still in the early stages of incorporating existing THOMAS content and implementing the improved search functions that THOMAS users have been waiting for. The Law Library of Congress, which is managing the transition, is anxious to get your feedback and suggestions via its form at http://beta.congress.gov/survey.