AOL splashes images of Bollywood celebrities on its new home page for India. MySpace accepts sign-ups from mobile phones in Japan. Google departs from its customarily spartan home page and peppers its Korean site with colorful, animated icons.

As major U.S. Internet companies stake their ground abroad in anticipation of the next billion people coming online - and the advertising revenue they might generate -the flags they are planting aren't the Stars and Stripes.

Companies are trying to expand globally without seeming to, designing market-specific services with customized features that reflect differences in connection speeds, payment options and attitudes toward sex or violence.

The stakes are high as the United States faces a weakening economy and a slowing of online ad growth.

And the opportunities are large. People in two populous countries, India and China, are just getting online. The research firm IDC projects worldwide Internet ad spending at nearly $107 billion in 2011, compared with $65 billion this year.

But getting it right will be tough. American companies that merely translate their U.S.-focused sites into other languages risk losing to homegrown businesses that can better respond to cultural nuances. More here.
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