China’s government reported the country has surpassed the U.S. as the online population leader with more than 221 million Internet users.
The figure, reported this week by the Xinhua News Agency, reflects China’s explosive growth in Internet use. It was a 61% increase over the 137 million Internet users reported at the start of 2007.
Nielsen Online estimates the U.S. online population with home or work access at 221 million. By contrast, one-third of Chinese Internet users surf through cybercafes.
China currently has only 16 per cent Internet penetration — below the world average of 19.1%, and well below the approximately 50% penetration in the U.S.
Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA China Ltd., a Beijing technology company, said the Chinese online population should keep growing by 18% annually, reaching 490 million by 2012 — a number larger than the entire U.S. population.
With China on its way to the top spot, the U.S. will likely maintain the number two position for some years; according to Internet World Stats, third-place India had only 60 million users as of December 2007.