Europe is now home to more internet users than any other region in the world, according to new research from

Around 186 million Europeans are online, pushing the continent ahead of North America (183m) and Asia Pacific (168m) for the first time. The global web population is estimated at 580.78m, up 173.68m since December 2000.

Europe’s rise was aided by particularly high internet penetration in Scandinavia. The ten countries with the highest proportion of their population online are:

1. Iceland (70%)
2. Sweden (65%)
3. Denmark (60%)
4. Hong Kong (60%)
5. USA (59%)
6. Netherlands (58%)
7. UK (57%)
8. Norway (54%)
9. Australia (54%)
10. Canada (53%)

Europe’s web population differs from its US counterpart in composition as well as size. More men have web access (63% vs. 50%) and a greater proportion has a higher standard of living (41% vs. 32%). However, the two are similar in terms of age: 52% of surfers are under 35 in Europe compared with 53% in the states.

The study also identified mature web markets such as Iceland and the UK where online advertising accounts for over 1% of total adspend (€11 million and £165m respectively). Nations such as Spain and Greece are still up to three years away from this level.

In the UK, the Interactive Advertising Bureau argues that the growing role of the net in people’s lives is affecting other media.

Around 25% of web users watch less television as a result of their surfing; 4% watch fewer videos; 11% read fewer newspapers; and 11% read fewer magazines.

“The online population has grown four-fold in three years and traditional media is losing out to web-based news, entertainment and shopping,” declared IAB chairman/ceo Danny Meadows-Klue. “The internet debate is no longer about the technology, it’s about how it fits into people’s lifestyles.”

Data sourced from: Interactive Advertising Bureau (UK); additional content by WARC staff