Vint Cerf, who helped to build the internet while working as a researcher in America, said that television was approaching its “iPod moment”
In the same way that people now download their favourite music onto their iPod, he said that viewers would soon be downloading most of their favourite programmes onto their computers.
“85 per cent of all video we watch is pre-recorded, so you can set your system to download it all the time,” said Mr Cerf, who is now the vice-president of the Google, the world’s largest search engine.
“You’re still going to need live television for certain things – like news, sporting events and emergencies – but increasingly it is going to be almost like the iPod, where you download content to look at later.”
Although television on demand has not yet become a mainstream activity in the UK, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have all invested vast sums of money in technology which enables viewers to watch their favourite shows on their computers.
But some critics, including some internet service providers, have warned that the internet will collapse under the strain of millions of people downloading programmes at the same time.
Over the next four years, it is thought that the number of videos watched over the internet will quadruple, with people moving from short clips to hour-long programmes.
Broadband companies claim that the service will cause “traffic jams”, which will cost millions of pounds to sort out and that customers will ultimately end up paying the bill.
But Mr Cerf dismissed the warnings as “scare tactics”, saying that critics had predicted 20 years ago that the net would collapse when people all around the world started to use it en masse.
“In the intervening 30 years it’s increased a million times over… We’re far from exhausting the capacity,” he said. “It’s an understandable worry when they see huge amounts of information being moved around online.”
Setting out his vision for the future of the internet, he said he wanted it to reach as many people as possible.
“I want more internet,” he said. “I want every one of the six billion people on the planet to be able to connect to the internet – I think they will add things to it that will really benefit us.”