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Time to Turn off THOMAS: July 5, 2016

One of my favorite THOMAS related posts was of the THOMAS Starting Point, which featured the homepage of the site when it launched on January 5, 1995.  It seems only fitting to share the photo from the post while announcing the THOMAS Ending Point of July 5, 2016.

THOMAS Starting PointI have talked frequently about THOMAS on In Custodia Legis since the first week of this blog in August 2010 when I shared the Top Weekly Bills in THOMAS.  Also during that month there were posts on what Congress is sending the president, tweeting THOMAS, and its revamp during the recess.

On September 19, 2012 we introduced Congress.gov and mentioned that it “marks the first public announcement of the eventual end of THOMAS.”  And from that time on, the focus has been on making Congress.gov into a full-fledged replacement. We continued making significant enhancements approximately each quarter and removed the beta label in September 2014.  Congress.gov is the system that we wished THOMAS could be, but could not because of its older, fragile infrastructure.

There are great Congress.gov features like responsive design (which means it adapts to the device you are using), facets to refine your search results, member and legislation email alerts, status of legislation tracker, and member pages.  All of these features were unavailable on THOMAS.

And where we are now is just the beginning.  Congress.gov has also gained recognition as a Webby honoree in the best practices for the web category and was listed on GovLoop’s list of 20 Innovations that Mattered in 2013.  We have plans to continue to leverage our new platform to bring together U.S. legislative content in ways that were not possible with THOMAS.  We are retiring a twenty-one year old website and replacing it with a more modern, robust site with an agile development plan in place.

Let the countdown begin until THOMAS retires to Monticello on July 5, 2016.congressdotgov-plain-2016


  1. John Mark Ockerbloom
    April 28, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Last I checked, the Congressional Record for the 101st-103rd Congresses (1989-1995) was available on THOMAS but not on congress.gov (which starts at the 104th Congress).

    Will those years be migrated, or available on another site, by the time you turn THOMAS off?

    • Andrew Weber
      April 28, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Thanks for your question. Yes, the Congressional Record will be made available for the 101st-103rd Congresses. We are working to archive the THOMAS content and plan to make it available in a June release before the retirement (see footnote 3).

  2. lentigogirl
    April 28, 2016 at 10:52 am

    I sure hope there will be an appropriate jazz funeral for Thomas.gov, complete with a procession through the Law Library reading room. Long live congress.gov!

  3. Rick McKinney
    April 28, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    I was going to ask if the non-PDF text of Congressional bills for the 101st, 102d, and 103rd Congresses would also be added to Congress.gov before THOMAS is turned off, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out they are already on Congress.gov, even if they don’t include the somewhat crude THOMAS section link presentations. However, what still appears absent from Congress.gov are thousands of early CRS bill summaries. I take it these bill summaries will also be added to Congress.gov along with the 1989-1994 Congressional Record text before the lights are finally turned off on the 21 year old THOMAS? Also will former THOMAS bill or report links be re-directed to Congress.gov?

  4. Leslie Alwiel
    April 28, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    THOMAS we shall miss you, and if you celebrate appropriately as lentigogirl suggests, please live stream the event. Know that I will make a toast and hoist a pint in honor of our dear, very knowledgeable friend’s retirement.

  5. BBalakri
    April 29, 2016 at 11:16 am

    And here’s a shout-out to the folks who developed, and have maintained, THOMAS all these years – many still at the Library.

  6. Lee Prouty
    May 2, 2016 at 8:37 am

    I can’t tell you how many times I have researched legislative issues on Thomas.
    Thank you so much for making this tool available to us. I have not gotten used
    to newer & appreciate the notice.

    Used to work on the Hill in older days and boy would have this been valuable
    back then. I always appreciated all the work you people at the Library of Congress did to make both our bosses but staff especially easier. Thanks for ALL your work.

  7. Joy
    May 4, 2016 at 5:32 am

    I use this with my students and will miss the tools and easy navigation features.

  8. William Thomas
    May 7, 2016 at 12:47 am

    I started thomas.gov when i wanted to search for a congressional or senate record but their was no search engine so i asked if they could add a search engine and they did.

  9. Rusty
    May 13, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Glad to hear that the older content from Thomas will be migrated. The older appropriation content was the primary thing I still regularly went to Thomas to find, but it looks like that has been migrated already. As a note, the layout of the appropriations status material was, to me, generally more informative and useful in Thomas than how it currently is displayed in Congress.Gov. Can’t seem to get to Thomas at all anymore, though, to compare and better explain what I can no longer find that I thought was helpful.

  10. Susan Lukas
    May 19, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    I have been using THOMAS since 1996 and seeing it go away is like losing a friend. It was easy to navigate and became a life saver on more then one occasion. I am still stumbling around on some of my searches with Congress.gov but am determined to figure out the nuances. Special thanks to all the great folks at the Library of Congress who work so hard to preserve the written word!

  11. Diane
    May 24, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Why not leave “old” Thomas accessible as a backup archive? That way “old” researchers would have a base to double-check accuracy against. Just sayin.’

  12. pokey939
    June 3, 2016 at 8:04 am

    I love the newer feel of the website. I’m thrilled. Will Congress.gov have an app available for us legal study majors?

    • Andrew Weber
      June 3, 2016 at 8:11 am

      As of now, there is not an app for Congress.gov, but the site is mobile friendly. Here’s how you can add an icon to it on your home screen.

  13. Michael Edward Reif
    June 3, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I like ¨Thomas¨ and the information it has on the contributions to Government that 3rd United States President Thomas Jefferson and people like him have made to help all of us understand the laws.

  14. Deborah
    June 9, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    I use this as a “go-to” site when I teach my politics class to Nurse Practitioners. I hope Congress.gov is as user friendly.

  15. Siobhan Crawford
    June 19, 2016 at 3:37 am

    I love Thomas! It has always been one of my “go-to” sites. Please, Please make sure the current legislative activity functionality is not lost. The wonderful table for all appropriation bills! Tables of all actions on a specific bill! Critical stuff for those of us with keen interest in Congressional activities!!

  16. Rick McKinney
    June 24, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I have links in some legislative histories to bills on THOMAS. Will there be any redirects?

  17. Rick McKinney
    June 24, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Will there be any redirects from THOMAS bill pages to Congress.gov after July 5?

  18. adomangue
    June 28, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I am very sorry to see THOMAS go. I have spent countless hours researching this site. I am sure that the new site will be fine but I like the personalization of this one. I think that he should have a very fitting farewell tribute for his years of service.

  19. TJ
    June 29, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Any chance/word on extending the deadline out from 7/5? Just seems to make more sense to retire THOMAS when the chambers are in recess. Thanks

  20. Diana Botluk
    August 5, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I’ve been writing about and teaching THOMAS since the beginning until a few years ago when you introduced Congress.gov. It was a fabulous website (as is Congress.gov) and I feel a nostalgic affinity toward it. I’m here to bid a fond farewell. Great job on both sites!

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