Where in the world is Mt. Kilimanjaro? Who is the leader of Saudi Arabia? What is the currency used in Belize? You can find the answers to these questions and much more in the CIA’s most popular and widely-disseminated publication, The World Factbook.
The World Factbook provides wide-ranging and hard-to-locate information about the background, geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. For most of the country listings in The World Factbook you can learn specific information like geographic coordinates, current account balances, number of mobile cellular telephones, heliports, legal systems, refugees, literacy, HIV/AIDS-deaths, and much more.
The World Factbook started as a hardcopy intelligence product, published annually, in 1981. The first issue featured 165 nations; the Factbook now features 265 geographic entries, including one for the “World.” Throughout its evolution, The World Factbook has grown in size, stature, and popularity. It was first published online in 1997.
Millions of visitors peruse the online World Factbook each month. In addition, tens of thousands of government, commercial, academic, and other Web sites link to or replicate the online version of the Factbook. The World Factbook is available for download in Zip file format for both high-bandwidth users and low-bandwidth users at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/download/.
Be one of the millions who browse The World Factbook by visiting this invaluable resource at www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.
Want to learn more about The World Factbook? Take a look at the timeline below to see how the Factbook has evolved.
1981 – Publication becomes an annual product and is renamed The World Factbook. A total of 165 nations are covered on 225 pages.
1983 – Appendices (Conversion Factors, International Organizations) first introduced.
1984 – Appendices expanded; now include: A. The United Nations, B. Selected United Nations Organizations, C. Selected International Organizations, D. Country Membership in Selected Organizations, E. Conversion Factors.
1987 – A new Geography section replaces the former separate Land and Water sections. UN Organizations and Selected International Organizations appendices merged into a new International Organizations appendix. First multi-color-cover Factbook.
1988 – More than 40 new geographic entities added to provide complete world coverage without overlap or omission. Among the new entities are Antarctica, oceans (Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific), and the World. The front-of-the-book explanatory introduction expanded and retitled to Notes, Definitions, and Abbreviations. Two new Appendices added: Weights and Measures (in place of Conversion Factors) and a Cross-Reference List of Geographic Names. Factbook size reaches 300 pages.
1989 – Economy section completely revised and now includes an Overview briefly describing a country's economy. New entries added under People, Government, and Communications.
1990 – The Government section revised and considerably expanded with new entries.
1991 – A new International Organizations and Groups appendix added. Factbook size reaches 405 pages.
1992 – Twenty new successor state entries replace those of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. New countries are respectively: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan; and Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia. Number of nations in the Factbook rises to 188.
1993 – Czechoslovakia's split necessitates new Czech Republic and Slovakia entries. New Eritrea entry added after it secedes from Ethiopia. Substantial enhancements made to Geography section.
1994 – Two new appendices address Selected International Environmental Agreements. The gross domestic product (GDP) of most developing countries changed to a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis rather than an exchange rate basis. Factbook size up to 512 pages.
1995 – The GDP of all countries now presented on a PPP basis. New appendix lists estimates of GDP on an exchange rate basis. Communications category split; Railroads, Highways, Inland waterways, Pipelines, Merchant marine, and Airports entries now make up a new Transportation category. The World Factbook is first produced on CD-ROM.
1996 – Maps accompanying each entry now present more detail. Flags also introduced for nearly all entities. Various new entries appear under Geography and Communications. Factbook abbreviations consolidated into a new Appendix A. Two new appendices present a Cross-Reference List of Country Data Codes and a Cross-Reference List of Hydrogeographic Data Codes. Geographic coordinates added to Appendix H, Cross-Reference List of Geographic Names. Factbook size expands by 95 pages in one year to reach 652.
1997 – A special edition for the CIA's 50th anniversary. A schema or Guide to Country Profiles introduced. New color maps and flags now accompany each country profile. Category headings distinguished by shaded backgrounds. Number of categories expanded to nine – the current number – with the addition of an Introduction (for only a few countries) and Transnational Issues (which includes Disputes-international and Illicit drugs). The World Factbook introduced onto the Internet.
1998 – The Introduction category with two entries, Current issues and Historical perspective, expanded to more countries. Last year for the production of CD-ROM versions of the Factbook.
1999 – Historical perspective and Current issues entries in the Introduction category combined into a new Background statement. Several new Economy entries introduced. A new physical map of the world added to the back-of-the-book reference maps.
2000 – A new “country profile” added on the Southern Ocean. The Background statements dramatically expanded to over 200 countries and possessions. A number of new Communications entries added.
2001 – Background entries completed for all 267 entities in the Factbook. Several new HIV/AIDS entries introduced under the People category. Revision begun on individual country maps to include elevation extremes and a partial geographic grid. Weights and Measures appendix deleted.
2002 – New entry on Distribution of Family income – Gini index added. Revision of individual country maps continued (process still ongoing as of 2008).
2003 – In the Economy category, petroleum entries added for oil production, consumption, exports, imports, and proved reserves, as well as natural gas proved reserves.
2004 – Additional petroleum entries included for natural gas production, consumption, exports, and imports. In the Transportation category, under Merchant marine, subfields added for foreign-owned vessels and those registered in other countries. Descriptions of the many forms of government mentioned in the Factbook incorporated into the Notes and Definitions.
2005 – In the People category, a Major infectious diseases field added for countries deemed to pose a higher risk for travelers. In the Economy category, entries included for Current account balance, Investment, Public debt, and Reserves of foreign exchange and gold. The Transnational issues category expanded to include Refugees and internally displaced persons. Category headings receive distinctive colored backgrounds. These distinguishing colors are used in both the printed and online versions of the Factbook. Size of the printed Factbook reaches 702 pages.
2006 – In the Economy category, national GDP figures now presented at Official Exchange Rates (OER) in addition to GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP). Entries in the Transportation section reordered; Highways changed to Roadways, and Ports and harbors to Ports and terminals.
2007 - In the Government category, the Capital entry significantly expanded with up to four subfields, including new information having to do with time. The subfields consist of the name of the capital itself, its geographic coordinates, the time difference at the capital from coordinated universal time (UTC), and, if applicable, information on daylight saving time (DST). Where appropriate, a special note is added to highlight those countries with multiple time zones. A Trafficking in persons entry added to the Transnational issues category. A new appendix, Weights and Measures, (re)introduced to the online version of the Factbook.