Nielsen/NetRatings, a syndicated rating system for Internet audience measurement, measured markets in Brazil, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States and found them to be maturing.

In contrast, Australia, France, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan experienced double-digit growth.

Nielsen//NetRatings concluded that mature markets are in wait of “the next big thing” whereas emerging markets were rife with opportunity for companies online. Some of the growth engines cited in the report is the proliferation of broadband and societal changes in media consumption.

“As the Internet has officially become an important part of our lives, the U.S. is primed for the next ‘big thing’ to spike Internet usage. There are many opportunities ahead for companies online, but if they just continue to do what they’re doing today, they’re only going to move sideways,” said Kaizad Gotla, senior Internet analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings.

“The easiest opportunities are in countries where Internet usage patterns and user/site relationships are less established. Acquiring users in markets that are currently in their growth stages will lead to a loyal user base that will pay dividends for Internet companies in the future,” continued Gotla.

Internet users in the United States trend along the worldwide average of hours spent online per month at nearly 14 hours. On the high end, Hong Kong is the most connected market with an average of nearly 22 hours; on the low end, Italians average 8 hours.

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