by: Alain Thys

At a conference in Paris last week, I was talking with a friend from Moscow about the state of the Russian internet market.  Over the week-end this lead me to do some research and I was amazed at what I found.  This to the point of adding Russia to my list of "places to watch" on the online scene.

While at first sight the percentages of 7-22% internet penetration don’t appear that impressive, things get slightly more interesting when looking at the large cities.  Moscow, St-Petersburg and Ekaterinburg have 29% of the population go online once or twice a week in which 15% of the internet users use Wi-Fi to do so.

Where my attention peaked was when I translated these numbers into “people”.  Remembering that Russia with its 143,000,000 inhabitants isn’t really a small country, this essentially means we’re looking at 31.5 million people online.  Being hospitable in adding Russia to the “European hitparade”, this gives us:

1. Germany: 48.8 million
2. UK: 37.8 million
3. Russia: 31.5 million
4. Italy: 28.9 million
5. France: 26.2 million

In other words, today, in number of users, Russia is already the third internet market in Europe and considering its semi-vertical growth rates and potential, has a chance to become number one in the next 2-3 years. 

As the percentage numbers remind me of our “Western” situation about 3 years ago, I’d say in 2007-2008 the fun is really about to begin. 

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