The last batches of IPv4 internet addresses will be distributed Thursday

Feb 01, 2011 By PETER SVENSSON , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- The spread of Internet use in Asia and the proliferation of Internet-connected phones worldwide are causing the Internet to run out of numerical addresses, which act as "phone numbers" to ensure that surfers reach websites and e-mails find their destination.

The top-level authority that governs such addresses will distribute the last batches on Thursday, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement wasn't planned until Thursday.

That doesn't mean consumers will suddenly find websites unreachable, though. And if everything goes according to plan, Internet users won't even notice.

"It will just be 'business as usual' if everyone gets their job done," said John Curran, CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, or ARIN, one of five regional groups that dole out such addresses. ARIN covers the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the top-level administrator of the system, has called a press conference in Miami on Thursday. One person said its last five "blocks" of Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses will be distributed then. These blocks, each with 16.8 million addresses, will be distributed to the regional registries. That means the regional groups will have IP addresses to distribute further to Internet service providers, websites and others before running out. Curran expects to deplete his allotment in six to nine months.

The current Internet address system, Internet Protocol version 4, has been in place since the 1980s. It allows for a theoretical maximum of 4.3 billion addresses in use, far beyond what was thought necessary for what was then mainly a network for academic use.

Engineers have known for years that the pool of these IP addresses would one day run out. Websites and service providers have been experimenting with a new technology () that allows for many more addresses - an infinite number, for all practical purposes. But many have been slow to do so because of a lack of immediate benefits. The exhaustion of IP addresses at the top level puts pressure on them to move more quickly.

The new system is called Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6. Curran said only about 2 percent of websites support it. However, many of those are the most-visited sites on the Internet, including Google and Facebook. He expects smaller sites to scramble for IPv6 addresses now.

As Internet service providers run out of IPv4 addresses, they'll have to give subscribers IPv6 addresses. The challenge lies in connecting them to websites that have only IPv4 addresses. In essence, IPv4 and IPv6 are different "languages." Several "translation" technologies are available, but they haven't been tested on a large scale, Curran said. That could lead to problems reaching some websites, or slow surfing.

"We're estimating how these boxes will work, but we haven't seen one deployed with tens of thousands of customers on it yet," Curran said.

The "end game" - the distribution of the last five blocks - was triggered by the distribution of two of the last seven blocks on Tuesday. They went to the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, the regional registry for East Asia (including India), Australia and the Pacific islands.

Explore further: Ebola.com domain sold for big payout

4 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Internet exhausting addresses, but no IPocalypse

Jan 23, 2011

The Internet is running out of addresses. With everything from smartphones to Internet-linked appliances and cars getting online, the group entrusted with organizing the Web is running out of the "IP" numbers ...

Internet body meets on domain names, IP addresses

Dec 06, 2010

ICANN, the international regulatory body for Web architecture, met here Monday to discuss expanding the list of top level domain names and a new generation of Internet protocol addresses.

World IPv6 Day test runs 24 hours starting June 8

Jan 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Today's Internet protocol, IPv4, is expected to run out of space this year. On World IPv6 Day the first steps will be taken to test a long-term solution that will address the 30 year old 32 ...

Internet addresses to accept Chinese script

Jun 25, 2010

(AP) -- Chinese speakers will soon be able to tap out Internet addresses in their own language after the agency that runs Internet addresses says it will start accepting Chinese script for domain names.

Recommended for you

Ebola.com domain sold for big payout

Oct 24, 2014

The owners of the website Ebola.com have scored a big payday with the outbreak of the epidemic, selling the domain for more than $200,000 in cash and stock.

Facebook goes retro with 'Rooms' chat app

Oct 23, 2014

Facebook on Thursday released an application that lets people create virtual "rooms" to chat about whatever they wish using any name they would like.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lord_jag
not rated yet Feb 01, 2011
Is it a coincidence that the conversion to IPv6 will likely happen in 2012?

electrodynamic
not rated yet Feb 02, 2011
They will lose everyone's address , and the world will cease to exist. It'll be the end of the world. Well for a lot of people anyway. Ah!! run away run away. The world ends for everyone eventually don't sweat it..
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2011
Is it a coincidence that the conversion to IPv6 will likely happen in 2012?


Yes, entirely.

Websites and service providers have been experimenting with a new technology (IPv6) that allows for many more addresses - an infinite number, for all practical purposes


Oddly enough, infinity sounds like a better approximation of what 2^128 really is than previous articles have stated. Previously they have stated things like a million billion or a billion billion, all of which were grossly too small to convey the scope of 2^128. Infinite addresses, while incorrect, seems more appropriate. I believe it's 6 addresses for every atom in every humans body.