The world will run out of internet addresses by mid-2012 as a surge in web users, devices and web services have consumed 94 per cent of IP addresses with only 6 per cent remaining.
The internet protocol or IPv4 has a limited capacity of 4 billion IP addresses - the unique 32-digit number used to identify each computer, mobile phone, wireless sensor, website or any internet-connected device.
Only 232 million IP addresses are currently free - just about enough to last 340 days, according to Geoff Huston, chief scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).
The IPv4 protocol was developed in the 1980s, when personal computers (PCs) had just been launched but there were no mobile phones, PC tablets or other devices that are today connected to the web.
It was thought at that time that the IPv4, with a capability to provide about 4 billion IP addresses, was more than sufficient for the world and nobody ever bothered to think what would happen when all the IP addresses were exhausted.
But with a growing number of PC-to-mobile phones to even air conditioners, cars and refrigerators that are linked to the internet, the IP addresses were soon being consumed, more so by countries like China and India, which have seen an explosion in mobile phone users.