China's Internet users reach 457 million

China's mobile Internet users hit 303 million, approaching the U.S. population

The number of Internet users in China reached 457 million at the end of 2010, growing by more than 73 million users from the previous year, according to official statistics released on Wednesday.

The growth, while impressive, is a slow down from the previous year and points to a gradual maturing of the Internet market in China.

Last year's addition of 73 million people represents a 19 percent growth on 2009, when the Internet population expanded by 86 million people or 28 percent. In 2008 it grew by 88 million, equivalent to a 41 percent increase. The first major surge in the Internet user base occurred in 2007 with the addition of 73 million users for growth of 53 percent.

The figures released on Wednesday came from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Internet usage from desktop PCs, laptops and cell phones all increased during 2009. China's Internet population includes 303 million users who use mobile handsets to go online, an increase from the 230 million figure a year ago.

China has the world's largest Internet population, making it a major market for IT businesses. In 2009, the country's Internet user base surpassed the U.S. population. This year the number of mobile Internet users is poised to surpass that figure, which stands at 311 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Using search engines, listening to music, and reading news were the top three most popular activities for Web users in the country. Micro-blogging is done by 13.8 percent of Chinese Internet users, while group buying is at 4.1 percent.

While growth has slowed, more than half the population is still not online.

The bulk of China's Internet users live in urban areas. Web users from China's rural areas were 125 million, making up about 27.3 percent of China's total Internet user population.

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