Like a walk through a fascinating internet graveyard, a list of domains deleted by the US government over the last ten years has been obtained via Freedom of Information Act request. The 26-page document lists hundreds of government domain names that have been terminated since December 2004—some for obvious reasons, but others less so.
Many of the lost domains appear to be standard government campaigns that have come and gone, like disasterhelp.gov, financialaid.gov, iowaelectionresults.gov, or nochildleftbehind.gov. Others are more whimsical, like fiddlinforesters.gov—which, according to an online archive search, was once the page for the official "old-time string band of the US Forest Service." Some, like smallpox.gov or couldihavelupus.gov, are strikingly utilitarian in nature.
Unfortunately, the document does not go into much detail, and only offers two explanations for the cause of termination: "Customer requested domain deletion" or "Expired No renewal."
Some circumstances seem more obvious than others, like the unfortunately-misspelled landing page for community service program AmeriCorps, americorpse.gov. Others, such as the ominously-named deathmasterfile.gov, appear to have hosted content that has since been integrated into other websites. In that case, the domain name referenced a database maintained by the US government of people with Social Security Numbers who have died, and is now part of the official Social Security website.
.gov is one of the few generic top level domains (gTLDs) that does not have a contract with ICANN, the non-profit organization that oversees the registry of internet domains. Only federal government agencies in the US can secure .gov domains, and they must be registered through General Services Administration (GSA), a federal agency. State agencies register through .us domains.
Not all of the domains listed in the FOIA document could be found in online archives, their purposes shrouded in mystery. Notably absent from online archives are letseat.gov, and retireez.gov, deserttortise.gov and takeprideinamerica.gov. What were these domains? Failed campaigns? Government missions? It's hard to tell.