Municipal URLs: An Analysis
Across the seven county Twin Cities metro area, municipalities (hereafter referred to as “cities”) play an integral role in the lives of over three million residents. The roles and responsibilities of cities vary across the metro area, often dependent on their size. In general, they do things like plow roads, supply water, manage planning and zoning, sponsor 4th of July parades, etc.
How do we figure out what each city does? You could call them, if you want. It would probably be easier to check out their websites. Since the 1990s, maybe even the 80s, more and more cities across America have put information about their services online.
Knowing this, how do we get to the online websites of these cities? For the 4% of us who are averse to typing our entire stream of consciousness into the Google search bar (a terrifying practice) we can access them through URLs, in our web browsers. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator; you probably call it a web address. Some of these URLs are easier to type than others.
Let’s take a look at the URLs of the 183 municipalities in the seven county metro area, broken down by category, so for example “plymouthmn.gov” is in the “[CITYNAME]mn.gov'“ category. After spending a large amount of time trying to set up an interactive pie chart, I ended up making a chart in Excel and screenshotting it, per usual. I think you can blow it up if you click it?
People love to say they love data.
As far as I know there is not an official standard URL for a city website. At one point there was the sort-of-standard mouthful of “ci.[CITYNAME].mn.us,” which remains the most common URL. At some point, most units of government had something like that, with counties having “co.[COUNTYNAME].mn.us” and states having “state.[STATEABBREVIATION].us”.
The new sort-of-standard appears to be “[CITYNAME]mn.gov,” which is the second most common. That seems like a decent URL—you’ve got your city name and the state and something to mark it as official, in the shortest possible arrangement.
Let’s go through some others.
One thing that’s funny is the 35 city government websites on the .com domain rather than .gov. According to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, the .com domain isn’t limited to commercial uses, but you’d think that in an age of scammers, moving to a more official domain would be a priority?
Aside from the ci.[CITYNAME].mn.us ones, there are another three that have .us domains. Similarly to the .com ones, they look kind of scammy? I would probably delete an email from dellwood.us without opening it.
Seven metro area cities have a URL that has “govoffice” in it, which looks like some sort of government Geocities. Some digging confirms that many cities have used Gov Office to build a website, but it would appear that some did not pay the extra $9.99 or whatever to remove the “govoffice.com” thing from their URLs. Incredibly, both Bethel and Nowthen are parked at “[CITYNAME].govoffice2.com”.
I went through these in alphabetical order and as soon as I had to type c-i-.-b-r-o-o-k-l-y-n—-c-e-n-t-e-r-.-m-n-.-u-s into my spreadsheet my immediate thought was: I hope Inver Grove Heights is also like this, and I was not disappointed. Imagine that every day in the metro area there must be at least a couple people who are typing “[FIRSTNAME].[LASTNAME]@ci.inver-grove-heights.mn.us” into Microsoft Outlook. That’s totally bananas.
Speaking of clunky, acronyms and hyphens are deployed very inconsistently. Both Elko New Market (“ci.enm.mn.us”) and Norwood Young America (“cityofnya.com”), which have really bad city names, use an acronym in their URL. West St. Paul (“wspmn.gov”) uses an acronym, while North and South St. Paul (“northstpaul.org” and “southstpaul.org”) do not. Gem Lake? No hyphen. Ham Lake? Hyphen.
Online, schmonline. Six (small) metro area cities—Coates, Hampton, Miesville, New Trier, Randolph, and Vermillion—have no website at all. Note: Hampton Township, which is slightly larger than the City of Hampton, does have its own website. You could also maybe make the argument that the website for Miesville is basically the website for King’s.
Basically the entire reason I wanted to write this is to acknowledge my favorite metro area city website, which, of course, is eminnetonka.com. Eminnetonka! That’s fantastic. Love it. Minnetonka, electronically. Slap a .gov on there and it’s perfect.
Vadnais Heights—already a bad name—is just “cityvadnaisheights.com” with no “of”
Spring Lake Park has “slpmn.org,” a bold assault on St. Louis Park’s rightful claim to the SLP acronym
Tonka Bay is the only city in the metro on the .net domain
Osseo has the Chamber of Commerce-sounding “discoverosseo.com”
“cityofhamburgmn.com” is too close to cityofhamburgerman.com
It appears that Coon Rapids is still named that (??)
Why did I spend four hours doing this? I gave up video games for Lent, which could be part of it. God I need to read a book.
Also, how in the world did St. Paul get “stpaul.gov”? Minneapolis, which has “minneapolismn.gov,” shares its name with a 2,000 person town in Kansas and a census designated place in North Carolina. Meanwhile, there are 12 other St. Pauls in the United States, along with a San Pablo. At least one of those is larger than Minneapolis, Kansas. How come St. Paul didn’t have to put “mn” in there? I wish Minneapolis had “minneapolis.gov” :(.