The world is about to run out of the internet addresses that allow computers to identify each other and communicate, the man who invented the system has told The Times.
Vint Cerf, the "father of the internet" and one of the world's leading computer scientists, said that businesses and consumers needed to act now to switch to the next generation of net addresses. Unless preparations were made now, he said, some computers might not be able to go online and the connectivity of the internet might be damaged.
Mr Cerf said that internet service providers in particular needed to prepare and that time was running out for a smooth transition.
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. What is the solution?
Every computer and online device is assigned a unique IP address, but the pool of unallocated numbers is about to dry up.
"This is like the internet running out of telephone numbers and with no new numbers, you can't have more subscribers," he said.