The global internet audience grew by 10 per cent during 2006, new research shows. India, China and Russia saw the fastest growth.

ComScore Networks found that 747 million people aged 15 and over used the internet worldwide in January 2007. This is a 10 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2006.

Among the top 15 countries (ranked by internet penetration), internet audiences in India, the Russian Federation and China increased the most in 2006, growing 33, 21 and 20 per cent, respectively.

China now represents the second-largest internet population in the world, with 86.8 million users. The US is the world leader in internet usage, with153.4 million users going online in January.

"The importance of the worldwide internet population continues to grow," said Bob Ivins, managing director, ComScore Europe.

"Internet users outside the US now account for 80 per cent of the world's online population, with rapidly developing countries experiencing double-digit growth rates year-over-year," Ivins said.

The ComScore research also analysed the top 10 countries ranked by average hours online per visitor for January 2007.

Canada topped this list, with the average user spending 39.6 hours - rising to 41.3 hours per month among broadband users - online during the month. Israel, South Korea, the US and the UK, all countries with high broadband penetration, made up the rest of the top five.