Deskbound Australians see stars and stripes

US websites are twice as popular to Australian web surfers than their homemade counterparts, says internet ratings executive David Stewart-Hunter.

According to Stewart-Hunter, the local chief executive of web ratings company Media Metrix, the online empire of Telstra -- Australia's most popular web "property" -- attracted significantly less Australian visitors than Microsoft's global internet dominion during the month of March.

More specifically, Media Metrix estimates that websites lying under the Telstra umbrella, including, Big Pond and White Pages, attracted 1.5 million Australian visitors in March, whereas Microsoft's sites, including Hotmail and Ninemsn, were visited by 2.2 million of the 4.456 million Australians who logged on in March.

Overall, Australian-owned sites attracted only half the number of visitors of their US-owned counterparts.

Stewart-Hunter attributed the difference to the respective quantities of online content produced by the two countries. He compared Australian internet habits to the country's television viewing habits. "If you turn on a TV program, you don't really ask, 'Is this an Australian program or an American program?' You look at what's in front of you. It's more to do with the number of sites available than it is to do with any sort of national preference."

Australians' website preferences were unaffected by differing national standards in online content and advertising.

The list of the 10 global websites most visited by Australians, which includes Ninemsn, Yahoo, AOL, Telstra and Lycos, has not changed since Media Metrix started publishing monthly global ratings reports earlier this year, Stewart-Hunter added.

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