Only 15 percent of Britons were using the Internet in 1998 according to Mikael Arnbjerg, European research analyst with IDC, compared with 31 percent in Finland and 28 percent in Sweden. Arnbjerg said the fastest Net growth was in Germany with 12 percent up from just 7 percent in 1997.
While the Nordic region is blooming, Arnbjerg said France holds the greatest potential for Net growth in the coming years "because they still have around 17 million users on MiniTel (France's proprietary online service)". Arnbjerg said he expected the majority of those users to make the jump to the Internet "soon" or be left out of the global e-commerce revolution.
IDC and rival research firm Forrester agree that e-commerce will be worth around $3.2tn by 2003, up from $80bn (£49bn) in 1998 -- about 10 percent of the global economy.
In 1998, IDC said about $4.9m (£3.1m) was spent on the Internet. The Germans led the way accounting for 30 percent of that figure with the UK in second place with 25 percent. Arnbjerg pointed out that with a population of around 80 million in Germany and 50 million in the UK the British are Europe's biggest Net spenders.
Despite concerns over the dreaded MP3 format, Europeans are spending most of their cash on music. Around 55 percent of Europeans buying online bought CDs, with books and software taking bronze and silver with 50 percent and 43 percent respectively.