Government web portals are the formal public face of online government, yet their effectiveness and contribution to contemporary government is largely unknown. This international, multidisciplinary study uniquely examines the architectures, rationales, effectiveness and power effects of government web portals. Government web portals are innovatively conceptualised as spaces of administrative, policy and power contestation. The study utilizes innovative digital research methods (hyperlink network analysis and web experiments) to comparatively assess 10 hi-tech countries. It provides a novel contribution to understanding the structure and governance of the state in the 21st century, and applied insights into designing online government.