It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally going to run out of internet. Back in 2011, we warned that this web reckoning was upon us, and now we have a more substantial timeframe. According to The Wall Street Journal, we’ll be fresh out of IP addresses in the next few months.
Back in the 1980s, the engineers who created the internet and the IPv4 specification made 4.3 billion addresses. Pretty big number, right?
Considering the deluge of laptops, smartphones, IoT devices, and the millions of IP addresses needed by huge corporations to run their cloud computing platforms (among other things), that 4.3 billion pool of addresses has dwindled to only 3.4 million in North America. It’s expected to be all used up by this summer.
So is this officially an internet crisis of biblical proportion, where fire and brimstone is replaced with cat gifs and viral videos? Not so much. Other countries have been out of IPv4 addresses for years, and we’ve still got the IPv6 specification ace up our sleeve. With IPv6, we will never, ever, ever run out of IP addresses, as the WSJ describes:
But IPv6, approved in 1998—IPv5 never caught on—allows for a mind-boggling increase in addresses to 340 undecillion, or 340 followed by 36 zeroes, enough to assign an IP address to every atom on Earth.
Yes. Undecillion is a word.
However, large companies still have an incentive to stick with IPv4 for as long as they can since upgrading would mean buying new routers and other hardware. All of this is just a stay of execution for IPv4 before everyone is forced to embrace the IPv6 future.
The internet lives on. [Wall Street Journal]
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