was only a question of time, of course, but it's official: China has
the second largest number of internet users in the world. The number of
Chinese net surfers grew 20% in the 12 months to January 2007 to reach 87m users according to US research firm comScore Networks.

The US is still way ahead with just over 153m internet users aged 15
or older. But the US market is essentially ex-growth — it grew just 2%
year-on-year. If China's current growth rate can be sustained — and
no-one predicts an immediate slowdown — then China's internet
population could surpass that of the US in less than four years.

That's just a prediction, of course, and even if it comes true then
it does not necessarily follow that there is much money to be made in
China's internet market — at least not yet.

Nevertheless, the figures are likely to cause more than a little
discomfort to those businesses who still see the internet as a
predominantly western phenomenon.

Thanks in large part to China, the internet's centre of gravity is
drifting eastward. Users outside the US now account for 80% of the
world's online population, with rapidly developing countries like
China, India and Russia experiencing double-digit growth rates

If you haven't already, now might be a good time for western
businesses hoping to reach China's fast-growing internet population to
register a .cn domain name — more in this EngagingChina story.

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