After a strong debut in the United States, e-commerce is rapidly spreading beyond U.S. boundaries and going global. Research by International Data Corp. (IDC), Framingham, Mass., reports that by yearend almost 60% of the world's online population will reside outside the United States, and non-U.S. Internet commerce will explode from 26% of worldwide e-commerce spending in 1998 to 46% by 2003. According to the study, Western Europe is a hotbed of e-commerce activity, with spending in that region increasing at a compound annual rate of 138% from $5.6 billion in 1998 to an astonishing $430 billion by 2003. "In Western Europe, the Internet is quickly moving from a technophile phenomenon to a tool for the entire population," says Anna Giraldo, senior analyst, Internet and e-commerce strategies research group. "The increased interest in the Internet along with the adoption of the euro, will help drive e-commerce sales." The Asia/Pacific region, including Japan, also represents a very active e-commerce market. The number of Internet users in this area will almost quadruple from 21 million in 1998 to more than 81 million by 2003, according to IDC. During the same time, e-commerce spending will surge from $2.7 billion to $72 billion. "Companies that sell on the Web will face technical, logistical, and organizational challenges as they try to develop a global Internet strategy that incorporates multilingual e-commerce sites," says Giraldo. "It might sound contradictory, but a successful global strategy will involve thinking locally in each of the individual markets. Internet users, especially in Western Europe, will be more trusting of national Web sites than international ones."