China Will Top World Internet Users in 2008: Study

China is expected to overtake the United States in terms of number of Internet users in 2008, according to a study conducted by the Internet Society of China.

It is believed that by end of this year, the number of mainland users will reach 244 million. There were 182 million China Internet users last year. The United States has roughly 200 million internet users.

Growth is not limited to number of Internet users in China. The number of mainland websites and integrated portals such as Sina, QQ and Baidu, which yielded 161.9 billion yuan (HK$179.6 billion) in revenue in 2007, is set to grow by 31.3 percent this year.

ISC director and China Internet Survey Group supervisor Hu Yanping said 2008 will be a year of exceptional growth due to the proliferation of online sports content – such as NBA basketball and Formula 1 racing – and Olympic-related websites.

Hu does not believe the blocking of websites during the riots in Tibet or the call by the International Olympic Committee for Beijing to keep internet traffic open during the Games in August would have any effect on the forecasts.

He also dismissed comments the figures may have been underreported due to regular blocking of “sensitive information” in the mainland.

The ISC is forecasting a 109 percent growth in revenue from online sports networks, from 4.7 billion yuan in 2007 to 9.8 billion yuan this year.

By 2011, the internet is expected to be the second largest medium of advertising in the mainland with revenue forecast at 500 billion yuan.

Guangdong had the most number of users at 30.1 percent of the national total. Shandong was second with 8.4 percent and Jiangsu third with 7.5 percent.

The yearlong study was compiled by a survey of 50,786 users and by monitoring the activities of an additional 50,786 users with the help of web portals.

Another survey looking at the internet habits, this time of Hong Kong users and conducted by ISC partner Internet Professional Association, found a lack of business-to-business transactions among the territory’s firms.

“One of the reasons is that many small and medium enterprises prefer to interact with their partners face-to-face, instead of going through portals,” said Simpson Poon Ping-hong, vice president of iProA.

The survey found the territory’s favorite search engine was Google with Yahoo a close second. Yahoo was the most commonly used e-mail service with Hotmail second.

(With report from The Standard)