With a quarter of its 1.3 billion population now internet users and 155 million using mobile phones to surf the Web, the mainland's internet industry continues to develop rapidly despite the impact of the financial crisis. The China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) yesterday reported that 338 million people were using the internet by the end of June, a rise of 40 million, or 13.4 per cent in six months. The number accessing the Web by mobile phone rose by 32 per cent, to 155 million, over the same period, it said. And it predicts the roll-out of 'third generation', or 3G, handsets will lead to a big rise in the number of internet users logging in through mobile phones. Many netizens have said they will choose 3G for surfing in the near future, the CNNIC reported. A year ago, the mainland said its netizen population had surpassed that of the United States; now it is bigger than the entire population of the US (more than 306 million). The report said the global recession had not slowed the growth of internet use; rather, the 'huge number of migrant workers returning to rural homes [because of the economic slowdown], and sharing their internet knowledge and familiarity with the local community has enhanced rural internet awareness and driven more people to the cyberworld'. The recession had also driven many people to online shopping sites, which offer lower prices. As a result, the mainland now has 87 million shoppers, 14 million more than six months ago. Blogs and social networking services have become more popular. Some 182 million internet users say they have blogs or personal spaces. Of these, 19.84 million became bloggers during the past six months. The report said social networking services, which attract repeat users, had made entertainment and life-oriented internet use more concentrated and made interaction between netizens easier. Facebook, kaixin .com and other such services are increasingly popular among netizens, and many bloggers have chosen to link their blog updates to microblogging services. Li Zhi, an internet business expert for Analysys International, said: 'As microblogging and SMS become more popular and netizens use mobile phones to take pictures, update and release information almost all the time, the government will face more challenges to govern the internet. That is because, by nature, they still regard it as a media and a mouthpiece for the authorities.' Ms Li said the Net had played a remarkable role in getting the public involved in big events and incidents last year, and it had 'definitely become part of mainstream media'. After the internet boom of 2006, the industry was now relatively mature, she said, with online gaming, advertisement and other business models having taken shape once the number of internet users surpassed 10 per cent of the mainland's population. 'As the 3G technology becomes more mature, the mobile internet user population will exceed the number using computers because it's more convenient,' Ms Li said. Security is an issue for computer users. Although 82.4 per cent say they have installed safety software on their computers, CNNIC warned that the mainland's internet was far from secure. During the past half year, 195 million netizens had suffered attacks by viruses, including Trojan horse viruses and worms, and 110 million users said their account IDs or passwords had been stolen. The data was contained in the six-monthly Internet Development Statistics Report issued by the CNNIC, an official Net research and administrative body under the State Council. The central government's 15-year Information Development Strategy for the years 2006 to 2020, and increases in money and personnel input from local governments, had contributed to the industry's rapid expansion, the report said.