US Running Out of IPv4 Addresses
The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN which manages the assigned internet protocols or IP’s available for use recently announced that IPv4 addresses may run out by early 2016. The average browser of the internet may not understand how this could affect their daily browsing, but larger entities such as those that provide internet services and data centers can be heavily affected not only in terms of the availability of their services but also of great financial costs. So, instead of the usual 32-bit system that is commonly used to indicate IP addresses, users may now have to get to used to the 128-bit system that is bound to replace it: the IPv6.
Background of the Shortage
Back in the 1980’s when the internet was first used by the US’s Department of Defense, the IPv4 was designed as a way to identify, specify the location or address of, and to route information to specific devices which are connected to the internet. It was designed to accommodate up to 4.7 billion internet addresses and was considered during that time to be a large enough number for all internet users. The internet however was released for public use in 1994 and with that came a large number of consumers for unique IP’s. During the following years, the introduction of various electronic gadgets that can connect to the internet have made that demand much bigger than expected with users coming up to billions.
In 2011, the ICANN released the last block of usable IP’s. This means that they have officially run out of available IPv4 addresses to provide for future users of the internet. Europe and Asia had been the first ones to totally exhaust their available IPs and US may be the last to experience this type of shortage together with Africa and Latin America.
The IPv6 had been created back in 1998, way before the highly-anticipated shortage was foreseen to occur. Hence, there is really no need to panic whether the end of the internet is near. During that time, the Internet Engineering Task Force had already known that the IPv4 is not limitless and thus have started to create the solution even before the problem occurred. With IPv6, they featured other benefits which cannot be found in IPv4:
- Can accommodate up to 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses
- More efficient routing
- Built-in security features
- Easy management
- More efficient multi-cast routing
- Elimination of the need for Network Address Translation
This, however, also comes with several potential problems if not addressed early on: IPv6 uses a different type of packet compared to IPv4 which means that you may not be able to access some sites using IPv6 and switching to IPv6-capability would also put some considerable costs in the purchase of compatible hardware. If you are an average user, this may not sound to be a huge problem for you as the ICANN explained that current websites using IPv4 will still continue to be usable for many years. The problem however, lies on internet service providers such as those selling web hosting, domain name registration, and internet access as newer sites will soon be hosted in IPv6.