The global online population accessing the net from a home PC rose from 498.2 million in the first quarter of 2001 to 531.3m in Q1 this year, according to a new internet trends report from Nielsen/NetRatings.

North America continues to provide the biggest proportion of online consumers, with 34% of all surfers within its borders. In second place is Europe and the Middle East (27%), then Asia Pacific (21%) and Latin America (2%).

Unsurprisingly, the survey of twelve countries found that the most popular use for the web is email – 90% of adults in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands have used the service in the last six months.

“Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Australia appear to be more mature internet markets,” declared Mark Henning, director of sales and marketing at Nielsen/NetRatings in Australia.

“Of the countries covered in the report, these five are the clear leaders in terms of the percentage of people with access to the internet [over 55% in each], the percentage that own/lease a home PC [all over 60%], and high internet connection rates [all over 80%] for those who have a PC in their home.”

Sweden has the highest proportion of people who have bought on the net in the last six months, followed by the UK, Denmark and Australia. Britons, meanwhile, are the keenest consumers of online audio-visual content, with Australians in second place.

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff