Are you ready for the big internet crunch?
By Matt Ford, for CNN
May 27, 2010 4:06 a.m. EDT
(CNN) -- The internet as we know it is reaching its limits.
Within 18 months it is estimated that the number of new devices able to connect to the world wide web will plummet as we run out of "IP addresses" -- the unique codes that provide access to the internet for everything from PCs to smart phones.
"The internet as we know it will no longer be able to grow," Daniel Karrenberg, chief scientist at RIPE NCC, the organization that issues IP addresses in Europe, told CNN.
"That doesn't mean it will cease to function, but entry could be limited to new devices."
Some estimate that by September 2011 the last large batches of addresses will be issued, meaning that months after that date there will be no new addresses available.
But while this sounds like a complete disaster -- another Millennium Bug -- it need not be, and there is a solution, if we all act quickly enough.
Currently the internet is built around the Internet Protocol Addressing Scheme version 4 (IPv4), which has around four billion addresses -- and they're fast running out.
Four billion no doubt seemed a huge amount when the system was designed in the 1970s, but few then could have predicted how the internet would take off, and how many billions more connections would be needed.
However, there is a replacement, IPv6, which has trillions more addresses available and ready to go. The problem is that businesses are proving slow to adapt their technology to IPv6, leaving experts fearful that we might be heading for a crunch within 18 months.
"My impression is that while awareness of the issue is quite high, a lot of businesses are sitting on the fence," said Karrenberg. "Many small businesses are waiting to see what the early adopters do; how they handle things.
"My suspicion is too many are leaving it too late."
So what do you guys think?