The almost holy “Father of the Internet”, Vince Cerf, predicted it was going to happen and low, it did. On Thursday the internet finally ran out of sacred IPv4 addresses.
The original pool of internet addresses has officially run dry. The last five blocks of the IP Version 4 addresses have been handed over to the regional bodies that distribute them.
An IP address is required by every internet-connected computer and is the IT equivalent of a postal address or phone number. The current system used was developed in the 70s and consists of a 32bit binary number, which is converted to the more human-friendly dotted-quad notation, such as 22.214.171.124.
In total there are around four billion addresses that can be used, which sounds like a lot, but the rise in the number of internet-connected devices and websites has meant that the pool of available addresses has rapidly been diminished.
The move to the new addressing scheme, IP version 6, is underway but could take years to complete.IPv6 is not widely adopted yet. According to Google, only about 0.2% of Google visitors would be capable of accessing an IPv6 version of Google search if the company offering such a service.
The situation, however, isn’t imminently dire: It’s not as if companies or individuals who want to launch a Web site will be unable to do so. There are likely to be addressed to be had for months if not years and the dwindling supply may be extended through network addressing tricks. But the limits of IPv4 are no longer theoretical.
With the last remaining IPv4 addresses allocated — two blocks of IP addresses, about 33 million, were assigned to the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for the Asia Pacific region earlier this week and the five final blocks were doled out in conjunction with the press conference.
Just to reiterate, the web has run out of IP (Internet Provider) addresses, not domain names or .com and .orgs, from the batch that was allocated when the internet was first started up over thirty years ago as a network experiment by Cerf and his buddies at DARPA. It was an experiment no-one at the time expected would keep on going for so long.
“This is one of the most important days in the internet’s history,” said Rod Beckstrom, head of net overseer Icann at a press conference called to mark the handing over of the final five blocks.
“It is a point that the founders of the internet thought would occur far in the future,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to shift to an internet protocol that offers a pool so large that it is difficult even to imagine.”
IPv6 has a pool of addresses a billion, trillion times larger than the 4.3 billion that IPv4 can support.
“The future of the internet and the innovation it fosters lies with IPv6,” said Mr Beckstrom.
Despite the imminent exhaustion of the IPv4 pool, few ISPs, companies, academic organizations, and others have made the switch. A World IPv6 Day is being planned for 8 June that will give governments, companies, and others the chance to test out the technology.