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The World Factbook (ISSN ; also known as the CIA World Factbook) is a reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States with almanac-style information about the countries of the world. It was originally an annual book, but the 2008 edition was the last to be printed on paper by the CIA. Other companies, such as Skyhorse Publishing will continue printing a paper edition of The Factbook. The Factbook is available in the form of a website, which is partially updated every two weeks. It is also available for download for use off-line. It provides a two- to three-page summary of the demographics, geography, communications, government, economy, and military of 266 U.S.-recognized countries, dependencies, and other areas in the world.

The World Factbook is prepared by the CIA for the use of U.S. government officials, and its style, format, coverage, content are primarily designed to meet their requirements. However, it is frequently used as a resource for academic research papers. As a work of the U.S. government, it is in the public domain.

Factbook sources

In researching the Factbook, the CIA uses the sources listed below. Other public and private sources are also consulted.


The World Factbook website as it appeared in January 2008
Because the Factbook is in the public domain, people are free to redistribute and modify it in any way that they like, without permission of the CIA. However, the CIA requests that it be cited when the Factbook is used. The official seal of the CIA, however, may not be copied without permission as required by the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 ( ).

Frequency of updates and availability

Before November 2001, The World Factbook website was updated yearly. Since then, the Factbook website is updated every two weeks. Generally, information currently available as of January 1 of the current year is used in preparing the Factbook.

Government edition of the Factbook

The first classified edition of Factbook was published in August 1962 and the first unclassified version in June 1971. The World Factbook was first available to the public in print in 1975. In 2008, the CIA discontinued printing the Factbook, instead turning printing responsibilities over to the Government Printing Office. This happened due to a CIA decision to "focus Factbook resources" on the online edition. The Factbook has been on the World Wide Web since October 1994. The Web version gets an average of 6 million visits per month; it can also be downloaded. The official printed version is sold by the Government Printing Office and National Technical Information Service. In past years, the Factbook was available on CD-ROM, microfiche, magnetic tape, and floppy disk.

Reprints and older editions online

The World Factbook 2008 (Skyhorse Publishing reprint edition) cover
The World Factbook 2008 (Potomac Books reprint edition) cover
Many Internet sites use information and images from the CIA World Factbook. Several publishers, including Grand River Books, Potomac Books (formerly known as Brassey's Inc.), and Skyhorse Publishing have re-published the factbook in recent years.

Older editions of the CIA World Factbook, going back to 1989, together with country rankings constructed from CIA data and additional country information from other sources are available at the Countries of the World website, which was begun in 1996.

Entities listed

As of February 2008, The World Factbook consists of 266 entities. These entities can be divided into categories. They are:

Independent countries: This category has independent countries, which the CIA defines as people "politically organized into a sovereign state with a definite territory". In this category, there are 194 entities.
Others: The Other category is a list of other places set apart from the list of independent countries. Currently there are two: Taiwanmarker and the European Union.
Dependencies and Areas of Special Sovereignty: This category is a list of places affiliated with another country. They may be subdivided into categories using the country they are affiliated with:
*Australia: six entities
*Chinamarker: two entities
*Denmarkmarker: two entities
*Francemarker: nine entities
*Netherlandsmarker: two entities
*New Zealandmarker: three entities
*Norwaymarker: three entities
*United Kingdommarker: seventeen entities
*United Statesmarker: fourteen entities
Miscellaneous: This category is for Antarcticamarker and places in dispute. There are six entities.
Other entities: This category is for the World and the oceans. There are five oceans and the World (the World entry is intended as a summary of the other 265 entries).

Territorial issues and controversies


Areas not covered
Specific regions within a country or areas in dispute among countries, such as Kashmirmarker, are not covered, but other areas of the world whose status is disputed, such as the Spratly Islandsmarker, have entries. Subnational areas of countries (such as US States or the Canadian provinces and territories) are not included in the Factbook. Instead, users looking for information about subnational areas are referred to "a comprehensive encyclopedia" for their reference needs. This criterion was invoked in the 2007 edition with the decision to drop the entries for French Guianamarker, Guadeloupemarker, Martiniquemarker, and Reunionmarker. They were dropped because besides being overseas departments, they were now overseas regions, and an integral part of France.

Maps depicting Kashmir have the India–Pakistanmarker border drawn at the Line of Controlmarker, but the region of Kashmir administered by Chinamarker drawn in hash marks.

Northern Cyprus
Northern Cyprusmarker, which the U.S. considers part of the Republic of Cyprusmarker, is not given a separate entry because "territorial occupations/annexations not recognized by the United States Government are not shown on U.S. Government maps."

Taiwan/Republic of China
Taiwanmarker has a separate entry not listed under T, but at the bottom of the list. The name "Republic of Chinamarker" is not listed as Taiwan's "official name" under the "Government" section, due to U.S. acknowledgement of Beijing's and Taipei's One-China policy according to which there is one China and Taiwan is a part of it. The name "Republic of China" was briefly added on January 27, 2005, but has since been changed back to "none". The map of the People's Republic of Chinamarker on the World Factbook shows Taiwan included on the map of China.(See also: Political status of Taiwan, Legal status of Taiwan)

The U.S. does not recognize the renaming of Burmamarker by its ruling military junta to Myanmar and thus keeps its entry for the country under "Burma". This is done because the name change "was not approved by any sitting legislature in Burma". As a result, the US government has never adopted the name Myanmar.

The Republic of Macedoniamarker is entered as Macedonia, the name used in its first entry in the Factbook upon independence in 1992. In the 1994 edition, the name of the entry was changed to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as a result of the Macedonia naming dispute with Greecemarker, which objected to the use of the name "Macedonia". For the next decade, this was the name the nation was listed under. Finally, in the 2004 edition of the Factbook, the name of the entry was changed back to Macedonia following a November 2004 US decision to refer to the country using this name.

European Union
On December 16, 2004, the CIA added an entry for the European Union (EU). (Before this date, the EU was excluded from the Factbook.) According to the CIA, the European Union was added because the EU "continues to accrue more nation-like characteristics for itself".

United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges and Iles Eparses
In the 2006 edition of The World Factbook, the entries for Baker Islandmarker, Howland Islandmarker, Jarvis Islandmarker, Kingman Reefmarker, Johnston Atollmarker, Palmyra Atollmarker and the Midway Islandsmarker were merged into a new United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges entry. The old entries for each individual insular area remain as redirects on the Factbook website. On September 7, 2006, the CIA also merged the entries for Bassas da Indiamarker, Europa Islandmarker, the Glorioso Islandsmarker, Juan de Nova Islandmarker, and Tromelin Islandmarker into a new Iles Eparses entry. As with the new United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges entry, the old entries for these five islands remained as redirects on the website. On July 19, 2007, the Iles Eparses entry and redirects for each island were dropped due to the group becoming a district of the French Southern and Antarctic Landsmarker in February.

Serbia and Montenegro/Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker (SFRY) broke apart in 1991. The following year, it was replaced in the Factbook with entries for each of its former constituent republics. In doing this, the CIA listed the Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker (FRY), proclaimed in 1992, as Serbia and Montenegro, as the U.S. did not recognize the union between the two republics. This was done in accordance with a May 21, 1992, decision by the U.S. not to recognize any of the former Yugoslav republics as successor states to the recently dissolved SFRY.
These views were made clear in a disclaimer printed in the Factbook: Serbia and Montenegro have asserted the formation of a joint independent state, but this entity has not been recognized as a state by the United States. Montenegro and Serbia were treated separately in the Factbook data, as can be seen on the map. In October 2000, Slobodan Milošević was forced out of office after a disputed election. This event led to democratic elections and U.S. diplomatic recognition. The 2001 edition of the Factbook thus referred to the state as Yugoslavia. On March 14, 2002, an agreement was signed to transform the FRY into a loose state union called Serbia and Montenegro; it took effect on February 4, 2003. The name of the Yugoslavia entity was altered in the Factbook the month after the change.

On February 28, 2008, the CIA added an entry for Kosovomarker; before this, Kosovo was excluded in the Factbook. The Kosovo declaration of independence is supported by the majority of EU member states, but disputed by Serbiamarker, which continues to regard Kosovo as its own territory, and other countries.

East Timor/Timor-Leste
On July 19, 2007, the entry for East Timor was renamed Timor-Lestemarker following a decision of the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN).


Before 1998, the United Kingdom profile contained a sentence that asserted the UK had gained independence on 1 January 1801. This terse, confusing description in reference to the Act of Union 1801 which expanded the United Kingdom of Great Britain to include Ireland, has since been greatly expanded, although the primary date of UK Independence is now given as 1927.

ISBN numbers

This is a list of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) for the Government edition of The World Factbook. ISBNs for the Potomac Books and Skyhorse Publishing reprints of the Factbook are noted as well. For the reprint editions, the year of the data is in parentheses.

Government editions:
  • 2000: ISBN 0-16-061343-4
  • 2001: ISBN 0-16-066404-7
  • 2002: ISBN 0-16-067601-0
  • 2003: ISBN 0-16-067943-5
  • 2004: ISBN 0-16-073030-9
  • 2005: ISBN 0-16-074941-7
  • 2006: ISBN 0-16-076547-1
  • 2007: ISBN 978-0-16-078580-1

Potomac Books reprints:
  • 2000 (1999): ISBN 157488266X
  • 2001 (2000): ISBN 1574883461
  • 2002 (2001): ISBN 1574884751
  • 2003 (2002): ISBN 157488641X
  • 2004 (2003): ISBN 1574888374
  • 2005 (2004): ISBN 1574889427
  • 2006 (2005): ISBN 1574889974
  • 2007 (2006): ISBN 159797109X
  • 2008 (2007): ISBN 1597971820
  • 2009 (2008): ISBN 1597974145

Skyhorse Publishing reprints:
  • 2008 (2007): ISBN 978-1-60239-080-5
  • 2009 (2008): ISBN 978-1602392823

See also

  • Besides the World Factbook, the CIA also publishes a directory called World Leaders regularly.


External links

1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • The World Factbook for Google Earth: The Factbook as Google Earth placemarks
  • On The CIA World Factbook accessible by location and date range; covers the years 2001—2007. All Factbook entries are tagged with "cia". Requires graphical browser with javascript.

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