China's main internet watchdog has found that while the growth of the country's internet community has slowed - after a decade of extraordinary expansion - those who are already part of the online community have turned their attention to microblogging. And in a big, big way.

The China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) has since 1997 been releasing half-yearly reports on the state of play in the country's internet industry and has now claimed there were 485 million netizens in the country up until the end of June.

That's a 6.1 percent rise, as compared to the last half of 2010, but is still the lowest rise in numbers experienced over six months since the late 1990s, according to CNNIC.

The organization put the lower rate down to the fact that the massive rural Chinese community was still not versed in the ways of the internet, so the spread of the medium had been curtailed somewhat after reaching saturation levels in the big cities.

And it seems that it is in those big cities that China's internet users have gone crazy over microblogging. CNNIC estimates microblogging by netizens grew 200 percent to the end of June - with the number involved rising to 195 million people or 40 percent of all those who go online.

The microblogging sites provided by Sina Corp, Tencent and Baidu were responsible for more than 90 percent of the market, the report claimed.

That estimation matches the claims of a recent report by the Shanghai-based industry watchers RedTech Advisors which had Sina with a 57 percent share, Tencent holding down 21 percent and Baidu 13.

Meanwhile, the number of internet users in China tapping into the group-buying craze hit 42.2 million - up 125 percent - over the first six months of the year.

While those numbers are impressive, internet penetration in mainland China remains well behind some of the world's most "switched-on" nations. According to Internet World Stats, the penetration rate in China rests at 36.2 percent, while it has moved past 70 percent in nations such as the United States, South Korea and Japan.