comScore: Web Audience Now Tops 1 Billion

According to web analytics firm comScore, the audience of the entire Internet for the first time crossed one billion users in December 2008. That’s a pretty huge milestone for the web, though it would still only represent about 15% of the world population. The greatest number of netizens come from the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for 41% of the world’s Internet population. That region of the world makes up about 61% of the total population.

The country with the most web users is now China, with nearly 180 million unique web users in December, followed closely by the United States with 163 million. The most underrepresented region is the Middle East and Africa, which together contributed just 48 million web users — or about 4.8% of the total. That is despite contributing over 14% of the population.

(A note on the statistics: I am using comScore for web stats and Wikipedia for world population stats. comScore lumps the Middle East and Africa together, while Wikipedia includes the Middle East with its Asia statistics. Regardless, the conclusion that the Middle East and Africa are among the least connected regions of the globe seems likely to be true.)

“Surpassing one billion global users is a significant landmark in the history of the Internet,” said comScore president and CEO Magid Abraham in a press release. “It is a monument to the increasingly unified global community in which we live and reminds us that the world truly is becoming more flat. The second billion will be online before we know it, and the third billion will arrive even faster than that, until we have a truly global network of interconnected people and ideas that transcend borders and cultural boundaries.”

For Abraham’s dream to come true, some of the lesser connected areas of the globe need to start getting online.

According to InternetWorldStats.com, which draws its statistics from a range of sources, the world passed a billion Internet users some time ago. comScore’s stats are based on “home and work computers” that accessed the Internet by people 15 years of age or older, which doesn’t sound like it necessarily includes mobile web access. That could account for the discrepancy.

According to InternetWorldStats.com’s population penetration numbers, Africans account for just 5.3% of net users. Asia also has a lot of work to do in terms of getting more people online — just 15.3% of Asians are on the Internet. The most connected region in terms of population penetration is North America, where 3/4ths of all people are on the web.

The most connected country, says InternetWorldStats.com, is the Netherlands, with 90.1% of the population online. Compare that to the most connected African country — Egypt — where just 17% are online.

So where are the world’s billion net users going once they log on? Not surprisingly, comScore pegs Google’s sites as the most visited. Google attracted 775 million unique visitors last month, or a reach of 77% of the world’s net population. Second on the list was Microsoft, followed by Yahoo!, AOL, Wikimedia, and eBay. The most popular social network in the world is Facebook, with a 22% reach, and the only non-American sites on the list were China’s Tencent and Baidu.

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