If the current exponential growth of home internet connections continues, the planet is poised to hit the half-billion mark in the near future, implies the latest survey from Nielsen/Netratings.

Some 429 million people are now estimated to be connected to the internet via a home PC, the study reveals, with nearly half of all US households online compared with one third of homes in the Asia Pacific region and over a quarter in Europe.

Of the total global audience, 41% are domiciled in the US and Canada, a substantial lead over Europe, the Middle East and Africa which accounts for 27% of the whole, and Asia Pacific with 20%. Latin America currently languishes with just 4% of the world audience.

Year-on-year, a greater number of homes in Europe and Asia Pacific now boast a PC and a higher percentage of these are connected to the web. Within the next twelve months, predicts Nielsen, a further 9% and 12% respectively of European and Asia Pacific homes plan to wire into the web.

Among the European surfers, Germany, the UK and Italy dominate, together accounting for over half the European total. Europe and Asia Pacific also reflect a far higher proportion of home (as opposed to work-based) access – more than twice that of the workplace in the Netherlands and Italy.

One in six European adults sought products and services pricing or information via the net, while one in eleven actually made an online purchase. Heading the league table of European brower/buyers are Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland; at the opposite end of the scale are Belgium/Luxembourg, Italy and Spain.

Citizens of the latter nation were the most reluctant to spend their hard earned pesetas online even after seeking product information. Conversely, Swedes pumped krona into cyberspace with 26% of all surfers buying online, 46% of whom did so at least once monthly.

News source: Daily Research News Online