It's started out as a great 2012 for technology stocks. So far, the tech-heavy Nasdaq has stomped the Dow Jones Industrial Average, returning 7.7% versus the Dow's 3.6% return.

Taking a peek at the top performers in the Internet and services space, you'll find a few key themes.

  1. It's a global list. The top four performers are all from China. In addition, Net 1 Ueps hails from South Africa.
  2. Many of these stocks were horribly beaten down in 2011. Renren (NYSE: RENN) is of particular note for being one of the biggest busted IPOs of 2011.
  3. Did I mention China? Seven of these companies on the list are from China. While the Shanghai Composite is up a reasonable 5% so far in 2011, we're talking some extreme outperformance in the list below.

Top 10 Internet and services stocks of January


% Price Change

VanceInfo Technologies (NYSE: VIT)  57.0
AsiaInfo-Linkage  50.2
Renren  47.9 (NYSE: YOKU)  47.5
Net 1 Ueps Technologies  44.1
Parametric Technology  41.3
SouFun Holdings  37.4
NetQin Mobile  36.6 (Nasdaq: ACOM)  35.1
SINA (Nasdaq: SINA)  34.5

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Includes only companies with U.S. listings and market caps greater than $300 million. All prices through Jan. 27.

Will the rest of 2012 be as kind to these highflyers of the new year? Here's an amazing fact: While outperformer lists early in the year are normally riddled with companies that smoked earnings during the first few weeks of January, only one stock in the list above has reported earnings! That's Parametric, which unsurprisingly earned its spot by beating earnings. For example, top performer VanceInfo doesn't have any particularly exciting news this year aside from an analyst upgrade.

What's driving that level of outperformance? For one, many technology growth stocks were heavily sold across the summer of 2011. As investors begin nibbling on more risk again, those stocks have come back in vogue. China reported GDP far more robust than the market was expecting earlier in 2012, and that's led investors back into the country.

Also, there's some pretty key tailwinds at the backs of other companies. As players in the social media space, both Renren and SINA will get to ride momentum from Facebook's upcoming IPO. Likewise, both and Youku are also seen as fringe social media players that could ride the momentum of a positive Facebook IPO.

That's it for our recap of the Internet space. However, if you're looking for a better stock idea to kick off 2012, we've uncovered one such stock with so much promise we've dubbed it "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012" and created a special free report for investors to uncover this soon-to-be rock star. The report highlights a company that is revolutionizing commerce in Latin America, and you can get instant access to the name of this company. Thousands have already requested the report, which is free today, but it won't be forever, so access it now.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.