Geographies in Depth

Most people on the internet live in this country

A man plays a computer game at an internet cafe in Beijing, May 9, 2014. As growing numbers of young people in China immerse themselves in the cyber world, spending hours playing games online, worried parents are increasingly turning to boot camps to crush addiction. Military-style boot camps, designed to wean young people off their addiction to the internet, number as many as 250 in China alone. Picture taken May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY)ATTENTION EDITORS - PICTURE 01 OF 33 FOR PACKAGE 'CURING CHINA'S INTERNET ADDICTS'TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'INTERNET BOOT CAMP' - GM1EA7110AW01

A number of giant Chinese technology companies have emerged on the back of the country's high internet usage. Image: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

More than half the world’s population now has access to the internet - and the biggest chunk of those people are based in China.

There are 3.8 billion internet users in the world, and the Asia-Pacific region leads both in terms of current users and the potential for growth, according to a new report from industry expert Mary Meeker.

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China is the largest market with 21% of internet users, while India holds second place with 12%, according to the Internet Trends Report. Even so, total growth in numbers slowed slightly in 2018 compared with the previous year, since so much of the world's population is already online.

And with India set to overtake China to become the world's most populous country within a decade, internet usage will almost certainly reflect that shift overtime.

Image: Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

China’s usage growth has primarily been driven by an increase in people watching short-form videos, signaling a shift in internet engagement. Internet users have broadly migrated away from text and still images to focus on videos and mobile-friendly content.

Image: Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

The popularity of the video format means some of China’s biggest technology companies – including Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent – are homing in on the medium.

Those companies - along with several others based in China - were all featured by Mary Meeker on a list of internet companies ranked by size.

While the US took the top five spots in a ranking of market capitalization, China’s internet firms took seven of the top 30 spots, with Alibaba and Tencent coming in 6th and 7th place after Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Facebook.

Image: Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report
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The report reflects China’s growing global influence. The World Economic Forum will hold its Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian in July, covering topics including the game-changing technologies and innovations emerging from China's business ecosystem.

The country is home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, and 40 years of economic growth have powered it to world-leading positions in almost all industries, from technology to manufacturing.

And as the Mary Meeker report shows, there’s still a significant proportion of China's population yet to come online - a sign the internet superpower still has room to grow.

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