Called Fathom, the site is the result of a partnership between six of the world's most respected educational and cultural institutions.
Fathom will provide public access to the content and courses of universities, libraries and museums, a majority of which has never before been available outside the institutions concerned.
The site has been under development for a year and is currently in beta. The current partners behind the site include Columbia University, the London School of Economics, Cambridge University Press, the British Library, the Smithsonian Institution's Natural Museum of Natural History , and the New York Public Library.
The site will provide a directory of online courses offered by universities, textbooks, periodicals and other publications, CD-ROMs and other academic titles. Tuition fees and admission policies will be set by the offering institution.
There will also be a large body of free content, including multimedia lectures, seminars, databases, publications and performances
"Fathom is far more than another distance learning site," stresses Fathom president Ann Kirschner, "We are creating a vibrant street for knowledge and education and intend to go beyond the current limits of information sites scattered across the Web."
Fathom will also be the first site where all original content will be authenticated. It will be attributed to the institution and staff concerned.