The Internet Just Ran Out of Numbers


The MIT “Technology Review” has an interesting article all about IPv4 finally running out of numbers, and what to expect next now that this has happened. here are some highlights from it …

Every available Internet protocol address has now been spoken for—which could mean huge trouble down the line.

The problem is that the current system for IP addresses, IPv4, uses numeric addresses that are 32 bits long—giving a total of just over four billion potential numbers, which must have seemed like a lot when IPv4 was introduced in 1981. But there are now seven billion people on Earth, and more and more of them—and their devices—are going online all the time. Fortunately, engineers realized the limitations of IPv4 a long time ago and lined up a successor, called IPv6, in 1998.

For ISPs, it’s a straightforward business dilemma: the two addressing schemes are not directly compatible, which means it would take a significant investment to let IPv4 users connect to IPv6 services. And having relied on the same system for as long as 30 years, they may not feel the need to change.


it suggests that almost any object—potentially every manufactured object on the planet—could one day have its place in this system. Advocates foresee a world where everything from your clothes to your car to your cup of coffee can be uniquely labeled as a node on the Internet.

IPv4 may still stick around. Even though all IPv4 addresses have been allocated, they aren’t all active. We could see secondary markets for address space develop, particularly among those businesses and universities which—typically by accident—own vast chunks of IPv4 space that go largely unused.

There are other ways to keep IPv4 viable for some time. A technical solution such as network address translation, for example, takes a single public IP address and splits it among many private addresses— allowing devices inside, say, a home or office network to connect to the Internet without their own unique IP addresses.

To read the complete article, click here.

So how will this pan out? IPv4 will not vanish, there is already too much equipment out there that has it hardwired in, and i don’t see it all being tossed and replaced. Instead, we will do what we always do, rubber-band and bootlace workarounds  will be deployed to patch things up, and dam the consequences further down the line.

Choosing inelegant solutions today will come with costs further down the line. There are lots of workarounds, and we can do more of that …The big problem is that when things go wrong, debugging the Internet is a bitch.

As observed by the article …

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