Internet hits major milestone, surpassing 1 billion monthly users

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo sites were the most popular in the world in December

The Internet last month passed a major milestone.

In December, the number of worldwide Internet users passed the 1 billion mark for the first time, according to online researcher comScore Inc.

With about 18% of total global Internet users, China had the largest online audience, with 180 million Internet users in December, comScore said. The U.S. came in second, with 163 million users, or a share of 16.2%, while Japan housed the third-largest online audience, with 60 million users, or 6% of the worldwide total, in the month. Germany came in fourth, with 3.7% of Internet users, and the U.K. was fifth, with 3.6%.

"Surpassing one billion global users is a significant landmark in the history of the Internet," said Magid Abraham, president and CEO of comScore, in a statement. "It is a monument to the increasingly unified global community in which we live and reminds us that the world truly is becoming more flat. The second billion will be online before we know it, and the third billion will arrive even faster than that, until we have a truly global network of interconnected people and ideas that transcend borders and cultural boundaries."

Late last week, comScore noted that Facebook Inc. recorded almost twice the number of global visitors in December than longtime leader Inc., the pioneer of the social networking phenomenon.

Facebook had almost 222 million unique visitors last month, while MySpace came in at 125 million, according to comScore. That's a dramatic change, considering the race for unique visitors was a near dead-heat in April 2008.

According to comScore's report, Facebook is extremely popular, though not the most popular of all online destinations.

The Google family of sites led all online properties in December, with 777.9 million visitors, comScore reported. Microsoft was next, with 647.9 million visitors, followed by the Yahoo sites with 562.6 million visitors and Facebook with 222 million visitors. ComScore noted that Facebook showed 127% growth in the past year.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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