Every computer, every server, everything connected to the Internet needs an IP address. These insure that any data passing through the web reaches the right machine.
If you are even moderately technical you’ve probably seen them – they’re 12 digit numbers separated by a ‘.’ into 4 blocks of 3. You can find the IP address of the computer you’re using by going to whatismyip.com.
IPv4 is running out
The news is that according to experts is that the Internet is going to run out of IPv4 addresses by April 2012. Considering there’s around 4 billion of them, that’s quite a feat. There is just 7% left – around 300 million.
IPv6 can help
There is apparently another system waiting in the wings, called Ipv6, which has many trillions of alternatives. But most businesses and countries are being very slow to make any switch. But unless the switch is made, the web will not be able to have any more devices added to it.
Set up in the ’70s
The current Ipv4 system was set up in the 1970s, when scientists could hardly have imagined such huge growth of the web.
Europe is a bit behind the game here. In China they have already been forced to make the switch to Ipv6, due to their huge growth in web users.
Working out when to make the change
Apparently it’s quite hard to work out when the IP addresses will run out, due to ever accelerating growth in the number of Internet connected devices.
“Ten years ago we said it would happen far in the future,” said Mr Pawlick of Ripe NCC, responsible for distributing IP addresses in Europe. “Now we are all running around with iPhones, we’re in that future.”
IP Address Rationing
There is already severe rationing of IP addresses, according to Trefor Davies, CTO at Business ISP Timico.
“You cannot just ask for more IP addresses, you have to prove you need them. “The registries will not let you have more until your reserves reach a certain threshold,” he said.
Apparently making the switch to Ipv6 is not easy, and can involve delays for web browsers. Just 1% of the web’s top 1 million websites have Ipv6. Firms will have to get to grips with them soon to ensure a smooth transition for all Internet users.
Something else to worry about
So. Global warming. Nuclear proliferation. Unrest in the Middle East. And now there’s another thing to worry about – the dwindling stock of IP addresses.