China’s number of internet users should pass the US figure in about two years. The country’s internet population rose over 23% last year to 137 million people according to the China Internet Network Information Center. The US has 210 million people on line. At the rate its is growing, the number of people on the internet in China could be larger that the entire US population of 300 million people in just a few years.
Companies based in China like Baidu.com (BIDU) have a huge lead over US based firms like Google. Its share of the Chinese search market is 70%. Some sources put Google’s (GOOG) China search share at only 16%, although the numbers appear to change depending on which audience tracking service is consulted.
Yahoo! (YHOO) is working to target business customers in China to help move its share of the search market up, but it is unclear why that would work. While AOL (TWX) and MSN (MSFT) appearing to be making little direct effort to drive up Chinese viewership, the country could be important to their expansion as internet usage growth slows in the US and Europe.
According to Alexa.com, the website traffic measurement service, three of the ten most popular websites in the world are Chinese (Baidu, Sina, and QQ) (SINA) With little to show for driving up market share in the world fastest growing internet market, US web firms may be facing a critical lost opportunity.
Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at email@example.com. He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.