‘Father of the internet’ warns on IP address drought

Internet innovator Vint Cerf has highlighted the need to switch to IPv6 before the number of available IP addresses runs out.

The world could run out of internet protocol (IP) addresses as early as next year, a leading internet innovator has warned.

Vint Cerf, one of the so-called fathers of the internet' not to be confused with Sir Tim Berners Lee, the father of the web' has pointed out that as more and more gadgets go online, the number of internet addresses is drying up.

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The current system is largely based on internet protocol version four (IPv4), which Cerf helped develop in the late seventies. It has space for some 4.2 billion IP addresses, but only 14 per cent of that capacity remains. Cerf said that will likely run out by 2010 if not sooner.

"This is like the internet running out of telephone numbers and with no new numbers, you can't have more subscribers," he told the Times newspaper.

He has joined the chorus calling for a move to IPv6, which is already ready. He said: "The technical stuff for IPv6 is done. IPv6 is ready. This is a business issue in the internet service industry. The ISP community round the world needs to pay attention."

Earlier this year, the European Commission called on governments to take the lead in the switchover and migrate their systems over, as the US has done.

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"In the short term, businesses and public authorities might be tempted to try to squeeze their needs into the straitjacket of the old system, but this would mean Europe is badly placed to take advantage of the latest internet technology, and could face a crisis when the old system runs out of addresses," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, at the time.

Cerf also warned consumers to ensure they buy gadgets which are compatible with IPv6.

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