Internet has less than a year's worth of IP addresses left, say experts

The Internet is about to face one of its most serious issues in its history: experts have warned that the Internet is running out of addresses, and may run out by 2011. At issue is slow adoption of a new system intended to vastly increase the available pool, further complicating matters.

Currently, the web uses IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4). 32-bit numbers are used, meaning about 4 billion addresses are available. About 94 percent of them have already been allocated. There is a new system, however, called IPv6. That uses 128-bit numbers, and the number of available addresses skyrocket.

Use of these addresses have increased dramatically over the past several years, thanks to the explosion of an array of Internet connected items. It is becoming even more imperative that IPv6 be adopted as fast as possible, but adoption has been slow.

What could happen as a result is a "black market" for IPs as these addresses dwindle, Google Internet evangelist Vint Cerf warned in June. This would drive up the cost of building out networks and establishing an Internet presence, and give power to those who hold open IP addresses, taking away from the decentralized nature of the Internet.

"Without IPv6, the Internet's expansion and innovation could be limited," American Registry for Internet Numbers president and CEO John Curran has said. "Delaying IPv6 deployment may strain the work of Internet operators, application developers, and end users everywhere."

Google and Facebook are two notable companies that have taken great strides to begin to deploy IPv6. Google already puts most of its services on the protocol, and has hosted conferences to help others in the migration.

Facebook was one of those companies to attend Google's event, and announced there that it had deployed IPv6. ISPs like Verizon and Comcast have said they are currently testing the protocol, but have not officially deployed it.

Governments are even getting into the act of mandating the switch to IPv6. India's Economic Times reported Wednesday that India's Department of Telecommunications has mandated that all telecommunications and ISPs must be IPv6 ready by the end of next year.

It may just be that fears could be unwarranted, similar to Y2K. Networking experts do note that there would be ways around the lack of IPs, such as having devices share a single IP. But that would just be a temporary solution and IPv6 still seems to be the future.

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