Gathering statistics from a variety of sources and presenting them in an easy-to-use and interesting graphical format is the purpose behind NationMaster.com. Designed by a Web publishing company in Australia and launched in May 2003, the site is an excellent ready-reference resource for teachers, students, and librarians. Self-described as "a massive central data source," the developers bring together information found in a wide range of documents, including the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book and various United Nations reports and surveys.
The large numerical database is used as a basis for interactively generating charts and maps that rank countries in a number of topic areas.
In addition to lists of prepared country rankings, such as "Richest" (Luxembourg) and "Most Trigger Happy" (South Africa), users may also take advantage of the site's scripting language to select from the more than 600 statistical variables available to create customized charts. Whether the top five countries for life expectancy or the bottom five countries for winter Olympics medals, rankings and bar graphs appear instantly. Broad subject categories range from "Crime," "Currency," and "Democracy" to "Religion," "Sports," and "Transportation." Other features of the site include simple but legible political maps and national flags, as well as a keyword search engine. An online encyclopedia (Wikipedia) gives additional background, definitions, history, and facts. The encyclopedia articles are embedded within regional and country profiles and are not independently searchable from within the NationMaster.com site. Discussion forums based on geographical or topic interest have also been established. Links to ads are present; however they have been unobtrusively integrated into the site.
Sources for all facts and figures are cited, which researchers will especially appreciate. While most statistics come from international agencies, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and UNESCO, other sources include various think tanks, advocacy organizations, commercial entities, and, in one case, an individual with subject expertise. There are some inconsistencies in providing statistical definitions for all data and not all countries appear in all data results. There are a few linking errors to incorrect pages.
A relatively new site, the information found here appears to be current and accurate. Although not completely authoritative, the easy user interface gets researchers quickly to informative data. This well-designed site, whose motto is "Where Stats Come Alive!" deserves a look.
Washington State University