New FirstGov search is live with great results

So here's a positive government tech story. Vivisimo's new search engine for FirstGov.gov has gone live, making the portal "Google-plus."

In October we relayed that Vivisimo, in cooperation with Microsoft MSN Search, got the contract to give FirstGov.gov some modern search capabilities. Late in January, the new search launched, and finally a wealth of government knowledge is easily available. The Washington Post compared the new and old search engines and found:

With the old search engine, for example, a search for "baseball" brought up the Web site Afterschool.gov because it features a picture of a boy holding a baseball bat. With the new search engine, that same search steers you to a list of World Series winners. (Who knew the government even had such information?)

Using the old search engine, a person who typed "Social Security" in the search box would get a link to the Social Security Administration and related Web sites, including the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.

The same search today turns up a list of frequently asked questions, such as "What are the Social Security and Medicare increases the government has in store for 2006?" or "How do I contact Social Security's nationwide Toll-Free Hotline?"

We did a search on the "San Francisco Earthquake," and as shown in the screenshot below, the search delivers you right to content on USGS and National Archives sites, including this amazing panaroma of the 1906 damage. Note that results are clustered in expandable subject groupings on the left, while full results are displayed on the right. You can also do a site-specific search just by clicking the "More results" link for each hit.

[screenshot here hopefully]

Finally, here's what Vivisimo says about the launch:

"The new FirstGov.gov search shows off all the elements of modern search: use of search results from multiple search engines, clustering into folders, and custom crawling of high-value government products such as FAQs, databases, forms and others." said Raul Valdes-Perez, CEO and co-founder of Vivísimo. "Vivísimo is proud to work with GSA and MSN to build the finest government search portal in the world."