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The World Factbook

  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions

The World Factbook staff thanks you for your comments, suggestions, updates, kudos, and corrections over the past years. The willingness of readers from around the world to share their observations and specialized knowledge is very helpful as we try to produce the best possible publications. Please feel free to continue to write and e-mail e-mail us. When submitting corrections or updates to the Factbook, please include your source(s) of information. At least two Factbook staffers review every submitted item. The sheer volume of correspondence precludes detailed personal replies, but we sincerely appreciate your time and interest in the Factbook. If you include your e-mail address we will at least acknowledge your note. Thank you again.

Answers to many frequently asked questions (FAQs) are explained in the Notes and Definitions section in The World Factbook. Please review this section to see if your question is already answered there. In addition, we have compiled the following list of FAQs to answer other common questions. Select from the following categories to narrow your search:

Spelling and Pronunciation
Policies and Procedures

  General Top of Page

Can you provide additional information for a specific country?
The staff cannot provide data beyond what appears in The World Factbook. The format and information in the Factbook are tailored to the specific requirements of US Government officials and content is focused on their current and anticipated needs. The staff welcomes suggestions for new entries.

How often is The World Factbook updated?
Formerly our Web site (and the published Factbook) were only updated annually. Beginning in November 2001 we instituted a new system of more frequent online updates. The World Factbook is currently updated every two weeks.

The annual printed version of the Factbook is usually released about midyear. US Government officials may obtain information about Factbook availability from their own organizations or through liaison channels to the CIA. Other users may obtain sales information through the following channels:

Superintendent of Documents
P. O. Box 371954 Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954
Telephone: [1] (202) 512-1800
FAX: [1] (202) 512-2250

National Technical Information Service
5285 Port Royal Road Springfield, VA 22161
Telephone: [1] (800) 553-6847 (only in the US);
[1] (703) 605-6000 (for outside US)
FAX: [1] (703) 605-6900

Can I use some or all of The World Factbook for my Web site (book, research project, homework, etc.)?
The World Factbook is in the public domain and may be used freely by anyone at anytime without seeking permission. However, US Code prohibits use of the CIA seal in a manner which implies that the CIA approved, endorsed, or authorized such use. If you have any questions about your intended use, you should consult with legal counsel. Further information on The World Factbook's use is described on the Contributors and Copyright Information page. As a courtesy, please cite The World Factbook when used.

Why doesn't The World Factbook include information on states, departments, provinces, etc., in the country format?
The World Factbook provides national-level information on countries, territories, and dependencies, but not subnational administrative units within a country. A good encyclopedia should provide state/province-level information.

Is it possible to access older editions of The World Factbook to do comparative research and trend analysis?
Previous versions of the Factbook, beginning with the 2000 edition, are available for downloading - but not browsing - on the CIA Web site. Hardcopy editions for earlier years are available from libraries.

Would it be possible to set up a partnership or collaboration between the producers of The World Factbook and other organizations or individuals?
The World Factbook does not partner with other organizations or individuals, but we do welcome comments and suggestions that such groups or persons choose to provide.

  Geography Top of Page

I can’t find a geographic name for a particular country. Why not?
The World Factbook is not a gazetteer (a dictionary or index of places, usually with descriptive or statistical information) and cannot provide more than the names of the administrative divisions (in the Government category) and major cities/towns (on the country maps). Our expanded Cross-Reference List of Geographic Names, however, includes many of the world’s major geographic features as well as historic (former) names of countries and cities mentioned in The World Factbook.

Why are Taiwan and the European Union listed out of alphabetical order at the end of the Factbook entries?
Taiwan is listed after the regular entries because even though the mainland People's Republic of China claims Taiwan, elected Taiwanese authorities de facto administer the island and reject mainland sovereignty claims. With the establishment of diplomatic relations with China on January 1, 1979, the US Government recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China.

The European Union (EU) is not a country, but it has taken on many nation-like attributes and these are likely to be expanded in the future. A more complete explanation on the inclusion of the EU into the Factbook may be found in the Preliminary statement.

Since we have an ambassador who represents the US at the Vatican, why is this entity not listed in the Factbook?
Vatican City is found under Holy See. The term "Holy See" refers to the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisors to direct the worldwide Catholic Church. The Holy See has a legal personality that allows it to enter into treaties as the juridical equal of a state and to send and receive diplomatic representatives. Vatican City, created in 1929 to administer properties belonging to the Holy See in Rome, is recognized under international law as a sovereign state, but it does not send or receive diplomatic representatives. Consequently, Holy See is included as a Factbook entry, with Vatican City cross-referenced in the Geographic Names appendix.

Why is Palestine not listed in The World Factbook?
The areas that could potentially form a future Palestinian state -- the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- do appear in the Factbook. These areas are presently Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian 1995 Interim Agreement; their permanent status is to be determined through further negotiation.

Why are the Golan Heights not shown as part of Israel or Northern Cyprus with Turkey?
Territorial occupations/annexations not recognized by the United States Government are not shown on US Government maps.

Why don’t you include information on entities such as Tibet, Kashmir, or Kosovo?
The World Factbook provides information on the administrative divisions of a country as recommended by the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The BGN is a component of the US Government that develops policies, principles, and procedures governing the spelling, use, and application of geographic names—domestic, foreign, Antarctic, and undersea. Its decisions enable all departments and agencies of the US Government to have access to uniform names of geographic features.

Also included in the Factbook are entries on parts of the world whose status has not yet been resolved (e.g., West Bank, Spratly Islands). Specific regions within a country or areas in dispute among countries are not covered.

What do you mean when you say that a country is "doubly landlocked"?
A doubly landlocked country is one that is separated from an ocean or an ocean-accessible sea by two intervening countries. Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein are the only countries that fit this definition.

Why is the area of the United States described as “slightly larger than China?in the Factbook , while other sources list China as larger in area than the United States?
It all depends on whether one is looking at total area (land and water) when making the comparison (which is the criterion used by the Factbook) or just land area (which excludes inland water features such as rivers or lakes).

Total area (combining land and water)

United States = 9,631,418 sq km
China = 9,596,960 sq km

Land only (without any water features)

United States = 9,161,923 sq km
China = 9,326,410 sq km

Why has The World Factbook dropped the four French departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, and French Guiana?
The reason the four entities are no longer in The World Factbook is because their status has changed. While they are overseas departments of France, they are also now recognized as French regions, having equal status to the 22 metropolitan regions that make up European France. In other words, they are now recognized as being part of France proper. Their status is somewhat analogous to Alaska and Hawaii vis-a-vis the contiguous United States. Although separated from the larger geographic entity, they are still considered to be an integral part of it.

  Spelling and Pronunciation Top of Page

Why is the spelling of proper names such as rulers, presidents, and prime ministers in The World Factbook different than their spelling in my country?
The Factbook staff applies the names and spellings from the Chiefs of State link on the CIA Web site. The World Factbook is prepared using the standard American English computer keyboard and does not use any special characters, symbols, or most diacritical markings in its spellings. Surnames are always spelled with capital letters; they may appear first in some cultures.

The spelling of geographic names, features, cities, administrative divisions, etc. in the Factbook differs from those used in my country. Why is this?
The United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) recommends and approves names and spellings. The BGN is the component of the United States Government that develops policies, principles, and procedures governing the spelling, use, and application of geographic names—domestic, foreign, Antarctic, and undersea. Its decisions enable all departments and agencies of the US Government to use uniform names of geographic features. (A note is usually included where changes may have occurred but have not yet been approved by the BGN). The World Factbook is prepared using the standard American English computer keyboard and does not use any special characters, symbols, or most diacritical markings in its spellings.

Why doesn’t The World Factbook include pronunciations of country or leader names?
There are too many variations in pronunciation among English-speaking countries, not to mention English renditions of non-English names, for pronunciations to be included. American English pronunciations are included for some countries like Qatar and Kiribati.

Why is the name of the Labour party misspelled?
When American and British spellings of common English words differ, The World Factbook always uses the American spelling, even when these common words form part of a proper name in British English.

  Policies and Procedures Top of Page

What is The World Factbook’s source for a specific subject field?
The Factbook staff uses many different sources to publish what we judge are the most reliable and consistent data for any particular category. Space considerations preclude a listing of these various sources.

The names of some geographic features provided in the Factbook differ from those used in other publications. For example, in Asia the Factbook has Burma as the country name, but in other publications Myanmar is used; also, the Factbook uses Sea of Japan whereas other publications label it East Sea. What is your policy on naming geographic features?
The Factbook staff follows the guidance of the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The BGN is the component of the United States Government that develops policies, principles, and procedures governing the spelling, use, and application of geographic names—domestic, foreign, Antarctic, and undersea. Its decisions enable all departments and agencies of the US Government to have access to uniform names of geographic features. The position of the BGN is that the names Burma and Sea of Japan be used in official US Government maps and publications.

Why is most of the statistical information in the Factbook given in metric units, rather than the units standard to US measure?
US Federal agencies are required by the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-168) and by Executive Order 12770 of July 1991 to use the International System of Units, commonly referred to as the metric system or SI. In addition, the metric system is used by over 95 percent of the world's population.

Why don’t you include information on minimum and maximum temperature extremes?
The Factbook staff judges that this information would only be useful for some (generally smaller) countries. Larger countries can have large temperature extremes that do not represent the landmass as a whole. In the future, such a category may be adopted listing the extremes, but also adding a normal temperature range found throughout most of a country’s territory.

What information sources are used for the country flags?
Flag designs used in The World Factbook are those recognized by the protocol office of the US Department of State.

Why do your GDP (Gross Domestic Product) statistics differ from other sources?
We have two sets of GDP dollar estimates in The World Factbook , one derived from purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations and the other derived using official exchange rates (OER). Other sources probably use one of the two. See the Notes and Definitions section on GDP and GDP methodology for more information.

On the CIA Web site, Chiefs of State is updated weekly, but the last update for the Factbook was an earlier date. Why the discrepancy?
Although Chiefs of State and The World Factbook both appear on the CIA Web site, they are produced and updated by separate staffs. Chiefs of State includes fewer countries but more leaders, and is updated more frequently than The World Factbook, which has a much larger database, and includes all countries.

Some percentage distributions do not add to 100. Why not?
Because of rounding, percentage distributions do not always add precisely to 100%. Rounding of numbers always results in a loss of precision—i.e., error. This error becomes apparent when percentage data are totaled, as the following two examples show:

Original Data
Rounded to whole integer
Example 1
Example 2

When this occurs, we do not force the numbers to add exactly to 100, because doing so would introduce additional error into the distribution.

What rounding convention does The World Factbook use?
In deciding on the number of digits to present, the Factbook staff assesses the accuracy of the original data and the needs of US Government officials. All of the economic data are processed by computer—either at the source or by the Factbook staff. The economic data presented in The Factbook, therefore, follow the rounding convention used by virtually all numerical software applications, namely, any digit followed by a "5" is rounded up to the next higher digit, no matter whether the original digit is even or odd. Thus, for example, when rounded to the nearest integer, 2.5 becomes 3, rather than 2, as occurred in some pre-computer rounding systems.

Why do you list “Independence?dates for countries like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom?
For most countries, this entry presents the date that sovereignty was achieved and from which nation, empire, or trusteeship. For other countries, the date may be some other significant nationhood event such as the traditional founding date or the date of unification, federation, confederation, establishment, or state succession and so may not strictly be an “Independence?date. Dependent entities have the nature of their dependency status noted in this same entry.

  Technical Top of Page

Does The World Factbook comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act regarding accessibility of Web pages?
The World Factbook home page has a link entitled "Text/Low Bandwidth Version." The country data in the text version is fully accessible. We believe The World Factbook is compliant with the Section 508 law in both fact and spirit. If you are experiencing difficulty, please use our comment form to provide us details of the specific problem you are experiencing and the assistive software and/or hardware that you are using so that we can work with our technical support staff to find and implement a solution. We welcome visitors' suggestions to improve accessibility of The World Factbook and the CIA Web site.

I am using the Factbook online and it is not working. What is wrong?
Hundreds of “Factbook” look-alikes exist on the Internet. The Factbook site at: is the only official site.

When I attempt to download a PDF (Portable Document Format) map file (or some other map) the file has no image. Can you fix this?
Some of the files on The World Factbook Web site are large and could take several minutes to download on a dial-up connection. The screen might be blank during the download process.

When I open a map on The World Factbook site, it is fuzzy or granular, or too big or too small. Why?
Adjusting the resolution setting on your monitor should correct this problem.

Is The World Factbook country data available in machine-readable format? All I can find is HTML, but I’m looking for simple tabular data.
The Factbook Web site now features "Rank Order" pages for selected Factbook entries. "Rank Order" pages are available for those data fields identified with a small bar chart icon located next to the title of the data entry. In addition, all of the "Rank Order" pages can be downloaded as tab-delimited data files that can be opened in other applications such as spreadsheets and databases.

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007

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18 January, 2007