Portals to the World

Looking for authoritative, in-depth information about the nations of the world? Check out Portals to the World, a robust online baedeker from the U.S. Library of Congress.

Some of the best search tools on the web aren't search engines at all. Portals of the World, a compilation of web sites created by the U.S. Library of Congress is an example of such an outstanding search resource.

The site currently features links to information on 67 countries, arranged by country or area. Links for each country are sorted into a wide range of broad categories, ranging from "general resources" to specific topics, such as "business," "government, politics and law," "culture," "languages," and so on.

And these are high quality links. They were selected by trained Area Specialists and other Library staff using Library of Congress selection criteria.

Contrast this to the results you'd likely get using any search engine, no matter how good it may be. The links offered by Portals to the World offer something current generation search engines can't: assurance that the materials referenced are not only accurate but also come from a trusted authority.

This isn't to bash search engines. Sometimes you want either the power or the unfiltered take on a subject that only a search engine can provide.

But for most people, searching for information about countries other than your own can be problematic. Without expert guidance, it's hard to know what to trust. Portals to the World's provenance provides that trust.

In addition to factual information about countries, Portals to the World provides links to other online resources, such as listservs, newsgroups and search engines that focus on a particular region.

Each country page also features a map of the country. Clicking on the map takes you to a "Country Study," essentially a book-length profile of the country created by the Library's Federal Research Division. Country Studies present a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of each country.

Portals to the World is a work in progress, with links to information on 67 countries. When completed, the project will include all the nations of the world. In the meanwhile, it's still an information-packed resource -- a terrific companion for the armchair world traveller.

Portals to the World
Selected links to information on 67 countries,from the U.S. Library of Congress.

The World Factbook
The CIA maintains extensive information on more than 267 countries and other "entities" in its comprehensive World Factbook.

Searching the Web World Wide
SearchDay, Jan. 22, 2002
Finding global information often means going beyond your favorite search engine. These strategies and tactics from 20 expert researchers from around the world can help.

Search Engine Colossus
If you'd rather research country information directly, Search Engine Colossus offers links to search engines from 217 countries around the world.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.