Can China now claim most Internet users?

More Chinese are now surfing the Net than even Americans, according to figures from China's government. But ComScore says otherwise.

China has captured the No. 1 ranking as the country with the greatest number of Internet users, according to a Reuters report.

The country clocked in with 221 million Internet users in February, surpassing the U.S. for the top billing, according to Reuters, which cites the Xinhua news agency's reporting of figures from the government-backed China Internet Network Information Center.

However, the Chinese government's figures do have some competition.

Market researcher ComScore told CNET News.com on Thursday that the U.S. maintains a slight lead over China, according to its March figures. The number of U.S. Internet users reached 188 million last month, verses 173 million in China, according to ComScore.

The discrepancy may be due to the length of time the two agencies track figures, a ComScore representative said. ComScore relies on data gathered on a monthly basis, while the China Internet Network Information Center collects data over a six-month period, the representative said.

And while the number of Internet users in China is high by any count, its penetration rate in relation to its population is still lower than the worldwide average. The percentage of Internet users in China is 16 percent of its population, compared with 19.1 percent on a global scale, Reuters said.

A substantial portion of Internet users in rural China rely on Internet cafes to access the Net, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

 

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