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Internet : running out of addresses

Internet : running out of addresses

Published March 25, 2011 by Gillian Hunter

Nobody thought it would happen! But it has - and incredibly quickly too. Headlines read:"It's the IPcalypse - the internet has run out of space"

The internet is running out of addresses. And, it affects each and every one of us. However, there is an answer and its called IPv6. Consumers shouldn't have to worry about it, however big business and ISPs should.

It seems totally unbelievable, but the domain system we use at the moment, IPv4, only allows for 4 billion unique combinations. When the internet was created, nobody imagined we'd need more than 4 billion IP address. Well we do. Every device that is connected to the internet has a unique number - a unique address. That is how we all connect. 

IPv6 will sort out these "space" issues. However it is a totally different system, and not compatible with IPv4. The new address system has numbers and letters, providing us with 340 trillion trillion trillion unique addresses, so we won't run out of addresses for quite some time.

Eventually we'll all need to switch over to IPv6. Not in the immediate future. Maybe a good idea to have a foot in both camps for a while. IPv4 isn't quite dead yet: this week Microsoft paid bankrupt Nortel networks $7.5 million for over 600,000 IPv4 addresses. That may prove to be the bargain of the decade if the transition to IPv6 doesn't go smoothly - and you own a scarse and increasingly sought-after resource.

When I tested my web connection, the results showed that I am only able to browse the IPv4 internet only - and wouldn't be able to see IPv6-only sites. Nothing to worry about right now - but eventually, yes. However, I was given my own unique IPv6 address this week ...Crowd at London IPv6 launch eventHow come? I was one of the privileged few to attend what many would consider the Internet geek-gathering of the year: Bring on IPv6, held at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden in London on Tuesday, 22 March 2011.

An historic event I didn't want to miss.  Particularly, as I was also one of the very few to attend an launch event for the Internet at the QE2 in Westminster around 1992-3. 

We've come a long way - a very long way in the last 18 years.

Back in 1993, yours truly was accused of being an anorak (was anything but) - and that this internet thing would never take off!  Bizarrely, for a telecoms company, board members were dismissive of the idea. Didn't see the value.

It was an uphill struggle to get approval to get our first corporate website launched in 1994, which was little more than digital brochureware. Back then we were feeling our way in the dark - working out how to create a website, what to put on it, how to create navigation. We learnt by trial and error. We didn't have analytics - we were literally flying by the seats of our pants - but it was an exhilerating ride!

We had strange ideas about the web and what to do with it - we believed that content needed to be very succinct. Short, brief, easy to read and understand. We couldn't have dreamt how important content would become and the power of searches, and optimisation and the proliferation of web tools! Now we have specialists in web apps such as twitter, Linked-In, facebook - jobs that didn't exist just ten years ago!

Interestingly, people in the room felt the internet has only really taken off in the last 5-6 years! We really haven't seen anything yet.

If you didn't make it to Bring on IPv6 , you missed a great event. It will be a long time before there is another event like it - probably not in our lifetimes. We'd hope so anyway.

Huge thanks to Trefor Davies, CTO and co-founder of Timico for hosting such a memorable and enjoyable event. 

Check out the IPv6 launch event photos on Flickr.

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