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The online market in Europe is maturing, as penetration rates increase and the numbers of men and women online begin to even out. Research in France Germany and the UK found that the UK is the most advanced in its uptake of the Net.

In all three countries the predominant use of the Net is to gather information, and then mostly about books or CDs. In France and the UK, the second most popular topic is travel, while the Germans prefer to peruse the techie sites looking for information about PC products.

More people are buying online too, according to research compiled by KPMG and VNU [Who VNU? Ed]. Once people have researched a product online, around 70 per cent of them will buy it somewhere and over a third of those will spend the cash online.

The UK has the highest rate of net penetration (44 per cent) and the largest proportion of women surfers (also 44 per cent) among the three countries.

Only 34 per cent of the online users (27 per cent of the population)in Germany is female.

And France is a similar picture, although with a much lower penetration rate at 17 per cent.

Slow modems are a big concern among mainstream European netheads. More than half said they were interested in a faster connection, and almost as many said they would subscribe to ADSL or a cable service despite the price premium.

Most respondents also expressed interest in WAP technology and again more than half said they would buy a device once prices came down. However, only in the UK did more than 11 per cent say they were at all familiar with the technology. ®

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