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World internet population nears 700m mark with US dominance waning

NEW YORK - Almost 700m of the world's estimated 6.5bn inhabitants use the internet and 30.2m of them live in the UK, according to new research.

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The figures have been released today by ComScore Networks, based on what it claims is the largest research panel covering countries that comprise 99% of the global internet population.

It has come up with a figure of 694m people aged 15 or over who are internet users, representing 14% of the world's population in this age group.

The findings are predicted to come as a surprise to US marketers, because they show that internet users from their country, standing at 152m people, comprise less than a quarter of the total internet population. They do, however, make up the biggest group going online from a single country.

This compares with the 168.1m users logging on from China, Japan, India and Korea -- representing almost a quarter of the internet population. Ten years ago, when The Wall Street Journal first unveiled its paid-for access model and the verb "to google" was not in anyone's lexicon, Americans made up two-thirds of the online population.

ComScore said that the measurement would aid international marketers in understanding how the world uses the internet, an argument supported by MSN's vice-president of sales, Chris Dobson.

"Previously, MSN has attempted to harmonise disparate sources of data to get a global view. The fact that ComScore World Metrix data are produced with a consistent methodology worldwide will make a significant difference, enabling us to analyse what is happening globally and truly understand consumer online behaviour," Dobson said.

"This is a significant step forward for the industry and timed perfectly as the importance of markets outside the US grows, especially rapidly developing countries like China and India, which up to now have not enjoyed such insight."

The UK is fifth on the list, lagging behind only Germany among European countries. However, it did not even make the top 15 when it came to time spent online. ComScore's research showed that Israeli, Finnish and South Korean web users rack up the most hours.

The most popular websites predictably included Microsoft/MSN, Google and Yahoo!. However, the research revealed that Wikipedia, the open source online encyclopaedia, was the seventh most popular in the world.

Top 15 online populations by country*
1. United States 152,046,000
2. China 74,727,000
3. Japan 52,100,000
4. Germany 31,813,000
5. United Kingdom 30,190,000
6. South Korea 24,645,000
7. France 23,884,000
8. Canada 18,996,000
9. Italy 16,834,000
10. India 16,713,000
11. Brazil 13,186,000
12. Spain 12,452,000
13. Netherlands 10,969,000
14. Russia 10,833,000
15. Australia 9,735,000

Worldwide total 694,260,000
* Excludes traffic from public computers such as internet cafes and access from mobile phones or PDAs.

Top 15 countries by average monthly hours online per unique visitor*
1. Israel 57.5 hours a month
2. Finland 49.3
3. South Korea 47.2
4. Netherlands 43.5
5. Taiwan 43.2
6. Sweden 41.4
=7. Brazil 41.2
=7. Hong Kong 41.2
9. Portugal 39.8
10. Canada 38.4
11. Germany 37.2
12. Denmark 36.8
13. France 36.8
14. Norway 35.4
15. Venezuela 35.3

Worldwide average 31.3
* Excludes traffic from public computers such as internet cafes and access from mobile phones or PDAs.

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