China’s internet penetration is far less (29%) than the US (74%), but the total number of users, 384 million, has far exceeded that of the US, 228 million. Although people tend to use the web for pretty much the same purposes everywhere in the world, the web experience in China in many respect would be quite different than in the US.
The top uses for the web in China, according to the 25th internet survey report (http://down3.tech.sina.com.cn/fdl/doc/cnnicrep25-201001.doc), are for online music (84% of users), news (80%), search engines (73%), instant messaging (71%), online games (69%), online videos (63%), blogs (58%), and emails (57%). Compare this with the top uses in the US according to data from Pew Research (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0921862.html), which are emails (91%), search engines (88%), map/directions (86%), research hobby/interest (82%), research product/service (80%), weather (79%), health information (74%), news (72%), and travel information (72%). This contrast is already very interesting. Chinese don’t use emails as much as Americans. Instead they use instant messaging far more often. Americans tend to use the web to help with their entertainment, using it to research their hobby related topics or to gather information for their next trip. For Chinese, on the other hand, the web is the entertainment. A vast majority of them listen to online music, watch online videos, and play online games. Americans also use online business far more extensively than Chinese.