The US' dominance of the internet economy will diminish as Europe and Japan forge ahead with their lead in the use of wireless web technologies, according to a study released by a US industry group.
According to the United States Internet Council (USIC), a non-profit organisation that acts as an educational resource for US lawmakers, Europe and Japan will also match the US in the development of application service provider innovations.
The USIC's State of the Internet Report 2000, claims that there will be one billion people online by 2005, up from today's figure of 300 million worldwide. Around 700 million of the surfers will be based outside of North America.
The USIC also quotes figures from researcher IDC which predicts that the US will lose 17.7 per cent of its share of the ecommerce market by 2003. In 1999 the US accounted for 61.7 per cent of the market and this figure will be reduced to 44 per cent by 2003. Europe's share will increase to 31.2 per cent, up from 18.7 per cent in 1999, while the Japanese market will increase from 10.3 per cent to 15.4 per cent.
There are 83 million Web users in Europe today and the study reports that the region is digitally divided from east to west and from north to south, with a strong tendency towards regionalism. Scandinavia overshadows the rest of Europe in web use as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland each boast penetration rates of 35 per cent.
The UK, Germany and the Benelux countries are some of the fastest growing regions in Europe and the report singles out Ireland as a surprise success story as it has been able to attract multinational corporations to build offices there. Finland dominates the wireless landscape but Spain and Portugal lag behind the rest of Western Europe.
Penetration in Eastern Europe is low and growth has remained sluggish. The exception is Greece and Slovenia which have achieved penetration rates of 12 and 23 per cent, respectively.
The report also pulls figures Forrester Research which suggests that ecommerce in Europe will grow 100 per cent each year until 2003 to reach $1.6tn by 2004. By that time, European ebusiness will be worth half of the US market.
English will continue to dominate as the universal internet language for a few more years but the trend is for more non-English websites and content from countries in Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim. Although 76 per cent of sites today are written in English and 70 per cent of sites are based in the US, only 50 per cent of all web users are native English speakers.
From a global perspective, the study notes that there is a digital divide between the northern and southern hemispheres. There are 1.5 million people online in Africa but one million of those are in South Africa. Major inhibitors for many countries include poverty and inadequate telecoms infrastructure.
The report suggests that the level of content is growing at a phenomenal rate. In January this year Inktomi and NEC Research reported that the web contains one billion unique pages, 6.4 million servers and 4.5 million sites. But a separate survey by Cyveillance published six months later found that the number of pages had ballooned by one billion to two billion. It also found that the total number of registered domains worldwide exceeded 17.7 million, with 9.4 million dot coms commanding your eyeballs.
Mark Rhoads, vice president of the USIC, said: "The ongoing challenge for all lawmakers in any country is how to apply traditional principles of law, authored by governments with geographic legal authority to activities that take place in a borderless digital world."
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