London, Sept 25 : Vint Cerf, the 'father of the internet', has warned that the world is on the verge of running out of the internet addresses that allow computers to identify each other and communicate.
Cerf, one of the world's leading computer scientists, has asserted that there's and immediate need for businesses and consumers to switch to the next generation of net addresses.
Every computer and online device is assigned a unique IP address, but according to estimates, the pool of unallocated numbers will soon run dry.
IP addresses are as crucial to websites as street addresses are for businesses but some network engineers predict that we will run out of them in two years.
However, Cerf has said that it's high time that preparations are made now, otherwise some computers might not be able to go online and the connectivity of the internet might be damaged, unless preparations were made now He also said that particularly Internet service providers are needed to prepare and that time was running out for a smooth transition.
"This is like the internet running out of telephone numbers and with no new numbers, you can't have more subscribers," Times Online quoted him, as saying.
Cerf and hid colleagues devised the Internet system in 1977, and he set in place "internet protocol version four" (IPv4) which provided 4.2 billion addresses.
Each IPv4 address is a series of 32 binary digits.
However, with the boost in the number of internet-enabled devices, especially mobile phones, less than 14 per cent of those addresses remain vacant.
According to current figures, the existing IPv4 address will run out in 2010 and possibly as early as next year.
But, scientists have already kept aside a new system, called IPv6, which has been ready for implementation for more than a decade.
Under IPv6, each address has 128 bits and so provides 340 trillion, trillion, trillion different addresses - that is 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
And it is believed that this will meet humanity's needs for decades to come.
Both the protocol systems will run simultaneously and IPv4 addresses will still work as normal. But if the IPv6 is not widely adopted, then those using it may find themselves unable to connect across the whole internet.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned that shifting to the new addressing scheme was "critical for the future of the internet economy" and was likely to affect "all businesses that require IP addresses for their growth".