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INTERNET SPACE
Facebook in no rush to IPO, enter China
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 7, 2011


India Internet users top 100 million: study
New Delhi (AFP) Nov 8, 2011 - India's Internet users have topped 100 million, a study said Tuesday, and its online population could overtake the United States' within two years.

India's Internet population stood at 112 million by September, making it the third-biggest globally after China and the United States, the Internet and Mobile Association of India said.

"It's good news that we've crossed the 100 million milestone, but it has taken us a long time to get here," association president Subho Ray told AFP. "Internet use in India now is entering a critical growth phase," he added.

India is adding 5 to 7 million Internet users every month, increasingly in small-town India and among the less wealthy.

At the current pace, the country will overtake the United States in less than two years, the study projected.

China's online population is the world's largest at 485 million while the United States has around 245 million users.

The Indian government expects the number of Internet users in the country to total around 600 million in the next five years, Ray noted.

"The 600 million target is realistic if the government follows through with its ambitious plans to put in place the infrastructure for Internet usage," he said.

Internet giant Google said last week it expects India's Internet growth to be driven by mobile phone users, predicting they will form the majority of new online users in the country as low-priced smartphones become available.

As Internet usage has grown, online shopping has climbed sharply with retail chains and consumer goods companies jumping on the Web bandwagon to lure new e-customers.

According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the online retail industry is expected to grow by 35 percent annually to touch 70 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) by 2015, up from 20 billion rupees now.

Facebook is in no hurry to go public or to get into China, where it is officially blocked, according to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the social networking giant.

Zuckerberg, in an interview with Charlie Rose's PBS television program to be aired later on Monday, also said the role of social media in the Arab Spring uprisings may have been "a bit overblown."

In the interview conducted last week at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, Zuckerberg said that going into China would raise "hard questions" and "issues" for Facebook, which has more than 800 million members.

"But since, for right now, we're not available, and we don't have an immediate path to become available, these are not policy decisions we have to make," he said.

"At some point I think there would be some discussion around what it would take to go there, and then we'd at that point have to figure out whether we were willing to do that," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who was interviewed along with Zuckerberg, said entering China, which has more than 500 million Internet users, is "not really our choice.

"It's the government's choice," she said. "We're not available because they've chosen to make us not available."

Beijing has set up a vast online censorship system sometimes dubbed the "Great Firewall of China" that aggressively blocks sites and snuffs out Internet content on topics considered sensitive.

The system currently prevents most of the nation's web users from accessing Facebook.

As for going public, Zuckerberg repeated earlier statements that Facebook would conduct an initial public offering at some point but was in no hurry to do so.

"Honestly, it's not something I spend a lot of time on a day-to-day basis thinking about now," he said.

"A big part of being a technology company is getting the best engineers and designers and talented people around the world," he said. "And one of the ways that you can do that is you compensate people with equity or options.

"At some point we're going to make that equity worth something publicly and liquidly, in a liquid way," he said. "Now, the promise isn't that we're going to do it on any kind of short-term time horizon.

"The promise is that we're going to build this company so that it's great over the long term," he said. "And that we're always making these decisions for the long term, but at some point we'll do that (go public)."

Asked about the impact of social media in the Arab Spring uprising, Zuckerberg said the role of social media was "maybe a bit overblown."

"The way that I think about it is that if people want change, then they will find a way to get that change," he said. "So, whatever technology they may or may not have used was neither a necessary nor sufficient case for getting to the outcome that they got to, but having people who wanted change was.

"So, I mean, I hope that Facebook and other Internet technologies were able to help people," he said. "But I don't pretend that if Facebook didn't exist, that this wouldn't even be possible. Of course, it would have."

Zuckerberg was also asked about rivalry between Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google.

"There are real competitions in there," he said. "But I don't think that this is going to be the type of situation where there's one company that wins all the stuff.

"Google, I think, in some ways, is more competitive and certainly is trying to build their own little version of Facebook," he said. "But you know, when I look at Amazon and Apple I see companies who are extremely aligned with us.

"And we have a lot of conversations with people at both companies just trying to figure out ways that we can do more together," he said. "And there is just a lot of reception there."

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