TITLE: City.Net

ACCESS: http://www.city.net/

Those who recall a frantic rustling of Newsweek pages in the days following last year's South African elections, when students rushed in to locate the new flag of the nation, might enjoy examining the many sites accessible through City.Net. A wide variety of questions may be answered using this web server operated by City Net Express of Portland, Oregon. Begun in 1994 by former Intel systems engineer Kevin Altis, this rapidly-growing site arranges and provides links to city, regional, and country home pages around the world.

The simple name belies the real strength of this resource, in that it functions as an electronic hybrid of many kinds of reference materials--part atlas, part gazetteer, part almanac, and much more. This resource will appeal to a multi-disciplinary audience, and could be an appropriate stop for undergraduates seeking data relevant to travel & tourism, marketing, demographics, government and politics, and social and cultural topics. City.Net also may prove to be of equal value to librarians seeking answers to ready-reference or "stumpers" questions.

The resource is well-organized and extremely easy to browse, and the screen displays for the home pages of sites are simply designed. There are links at the bottom of each home page back to the index from which one began a search, along with four alphabetical indexes to cities, states or provinces, regions, and countries. While there is no online help, one should remember that this, essentially, is a directory; such help is likely unnecessary. The site administrators have placed clearly marked links on the home page that users may select to post questions to City.Net. And this reviewer consistently has received a response to all of his queries within a matter of hours. The chief flaw in this resource appears to be a bug in the keyword search engine, which presently returns zero hits with some frequency. City.Net staff are currently working to correct this problem.

The typical city page offers one or more city guides from which to choose, along with maps, transit schedules, and other general information. The guides, and the city pages themselves, typically include a mix of travel & tourism, business, and entertainment materials most of interest to business, marketing, or travel & tourism students. And while there is substantive data in some city pages--such as in the Denver home page, from which one can locate the pupil to teacher ratio in the metro area and the graduate rate of metro high school students, for example--the real value of this resource lies in the vast amount of information included in the many links to foreign countries.

By browsing the country pages one may locate an astounding variety of eclectic facts, from summary tables of the 1991 India census, to 1811-1991 population tables for Scotland, to descriptions of the endangered tuatara reptile of New Zealand, to the numbers of miles of paved roads in the Cook Islands. The India home pages include a list of winners of the Jnanapith Award in Indian Literature. Need to locate the state flower of Malaysia, or the exact date that Alaska entered the Union? Try City.Net. And don't forget--those country flag illustrations are just a mouse click away.

John Creech
Reference Librarian
Willamette University Library
Feb. 15th, 1995

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