The Globe and Mail - When the Internet runs out of addresses

(03-Aug-11) Earlier this year, there were a smattering of media reports about the Internet running out of addresses. People who don’t spend their days immersed in the Web world could be forgiven for wondering if this was another looming technology “crisis” like the Y2K bug.

The answer is no, but there is a transition coming – one that might be better compared to the switch from analog to digital television, or the implementation of 10-digit telephone dialling. So don’t panic, but take the time to understand how you will adapt to this change.

Basically, it involves a new protocol called IP Version 6, or IPv6, that allows for more addresses.

Internet Protocol, or IP, is a way to address all the devices connected to the Internet. The current version of IP, Version 4, was designed in the 1970s to be able to handle 4.3 billion distinct addresses. Vinton Cerf, known as the father of the Internet, has said publicly he considered this “enough for an experiment. The problem is, the experiment never ended.”

The Internet has grown beyond its creators’ expectations. In February, the last blocks of IPv4 addresses were handed out to Internet service providers. That doesn’t mean they’re all gone – virtually all service providers still have individual addresses that are unassigned – but supplies are dwindling.

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