Google has launched a new site dedicated to searching for government information: Google US Government Search. It looks like Google is competing directly with the US gov's own FirstGov.gov, which is powered by Vivisimo (see FirstGov gets with modern search).
The home page of the site features feeds from the White House, the Washington Post and Government Executive, with the ability to personalize the page by adding your own RSS feeds.
Naturally, we thought we'd do a head-to-head comparison. The sample search is for Federal Register pages about VoIP. On FirstGov.gov we searched for voip "Federal Register". The results were odd: several links to state documents that referenced a Federal Register notice, a press release from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, etc. No direct links to the Federal Register.
On Google we tried the same search. The first hit dropped us right into page 2892 of Federal Register Vol. 69, No. 13. (PDF). That's a hell of a lot closer. That particular page made only passing to VoIP, so why not tighten the search?
Like FirstGov, Google lets you limit your search to a specific domain or block certain domains from your search, as well as finding similar pages, searching for occurences in title, and so on. So we tightened Google's search to www.gpoaccess.gov, which limited results to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, a beta site at GPO.
It's not clear from a quickie search how precise you can get your results in something as mammoth as the Fed. Register. So here's a simple test. We searched on Google for "Supreme Court" and the third hit was to Fedworld.com's database of 7000 decisions from 1937 to 1975. That's great because FirstLaw only has decisions from about '75.
That particular hit did not show up at all on the first page of FirstGov.gov, although clicking on the Opinions tab did produce the link as hit #5.
Based on those two tests: Advantage Google.