If you're Irish, step into the portal


The Irish Times on the Web this week unveils a project intended to be the primary Web resource for anyone with an interest in Irish social, political, cultural and economic life. On Wednesday the electronic division of The Irish Times launches ireland.com, a gateway to Ireland on the Internet and a suite of Websites providing a wide range of Irish-related information and services. This "portal" site is one of the most substantial developments of the company's online service since it began in 1994.

Seamus Martin, editor of electronic editions, said the new project was "a major venture" and a logical development for the site. "We began with the newspaper and then moved to a position where the newspaper was one of a number of sites carried under the banner of The Irish Times on the Web. The launch of ireland.com, however, will dramatically increase the range of sites we carry, and the use of the domain name will clearly identify the site as the place to visit for information about Ireland." Among the new sites being launched as part of ireland.com is a comprehensive city guide to Dublin, as well as daily updated sites covering business, technology and weather.

The company's existing Websites will also be accessible through ireland.com, including the main newspaper site and specialised sites such as Sports Extra, Irish Ancestors, The Path to Peace, Eurotimes, Recruitment, Dyoublong and An Teanga Bheo. ireland.com will also carry live news of national and international events which happen outside the traditional print-cycle of the newspaper. One important new service is free Web-based email for users, based on the ireland.com domain name. Users will be able to sign up for distinctive email addresses of the form dermot@ireland.com.

The guide to Dublin, aimed at both inhabitants and visitors, includes information on attractions, eating out, entertainment, travel, accommodation, shopping, traffic, and, of course, the weather. The site is media-rich, with soundclips, photos and interactive maps and tours.

An upgraded weather site will include a five-day forecast for 11 towns and cities throughout Ireland, satellite images and statistics.

Access to ireland.com requires no subscription or registration and will be available at www.ireland.com from Wednesday afternoon.

Conor Pope (cpope@irish-times.com) is an Irish Times on the Web journalist