Internet address warehouse empty

Feb 03, 2011 by Juan Castro
IPv6 is a new version of the Internet Protocol that is designed to succeed the existing Internet Protocol version 4.

The global warehouse for Internet addresses ran empty on Thursday.

The non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) doled out its last five batches of "IP" numbers that identify destinations for digital traffic.

"A pool of more than four billion Internet addresses has been emptied this morning," ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom said at a Miami press conference.

"It is completely depleted. There are no more."

He brushed aside fears of modern life being devastated by an "IPocalypse," saying Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) worldwide will be doling out remaining addresses to support a shift to a bountiful new "IPv6" format.

"It is like running out of license plates," said Internet Architecture Board chairman Olaf Kolkman. "Driving on the road the next day would not change."

The touted solution to the problem is a switch to an "IPv6" format which allows trillions of Internet addresses, while the current IPv4 standard provides a meager four billion or so.

The effort and expense of changing to IPv6 would fall mostly on Internet service providers, websites and network operators that have to make sure systems can handle the new online addresses and properly route traffic.

"If an ISP (internet service provider) gets its act together, it shouldn't be a massive problem," Trefor Davies, chief operating officer of British ISP Timico, told AFP.

"We really should see this as an historic event," he continued. "The very nature of the Internet has changed with the transition."

Beckstrom expected the full switch to IPv6 to take years with potential overall costs in the billions of dollars, some of which could be factored into routine replacement of equipment.

"We are talking about billions of dollars here globally, not trillions of dollars," Beckstrom said.

Consumers, for the most part, should remain oblivious to the switch since complex IP numbers would still appear to them as words and domains, such as icann.org.

"My mother, my neighbor, my kids -- they should never notice," Kolkman said.

Some people might need to update routers or modems that connect computers to the Internet.

"All conditions are in place for a successful IPv6 transition," Beckstrom said. "The future of the Internet and the innovation it fosters lies within IPv6."

Registries could begin running out of IPv4 addresses as early as next year, according to US computer scientist Vint Cerf, who is revered as one of the "fathers of the Internet."

"Today's ICANN announcement marks a major milestone in the history of the Internet," Cerf said. "IPv6, the next chapter, is now under way."

ICANN has been calling for a change to IPv6 for years but websites and Internet service providers have been clinging to the old standard since the birth of the Internet.

With about seven billion people on the planet, the IPv4 protocol doesn't allow for everyone to have a gadget with its own online address.

The situation has been equated to not having enough telephone numbers for everyone.

The number of addresses that IPv6 allows for amounts to 340 "undecillion" (followed by 36 zeroes); enough for a trillion people to each be assigned trillions of IP numbers, according to Beckstrom.

IPv4 addresses were expected to run out first in Asia, where demand has been highest as people and businesses in emerging markets embrace online lifestyles.

Once RIRs run out of IPv4 addresses, they will turn to IPv6.

The formats have been likened to different languages, with translation needed for systems to handle both.

Computers and other gadgets that don't get the new format might have to start sharing instead of having unique identifying numbers.

"The Internet won't stop working; it will just slowly degrade," Google engineer Lorenzo Colitti said of not making the move to IPv6. "Things will get slower and flakier."

Google, Facebook and other major Internet players will add IPv6 addresses to their systems in a one-day trial run on June 8 to let all parties involved check for trouble spots.

"We need to kick the tires on it at a global scale and see if there are some unforeseen problems," Colitti said. "There is really a rallying cry element to it. No single player can do it alone; we need to work together."

World IPv6 Day will start at 0001 GMT on June 8.

Adoption of IPv6 is vital to preventing the Internet from becoming "balkanized" with localized addressing frameworks, according to Internet Society chief technology officer Leslie Daigle.

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User comments : 8

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Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2011
IPv6 is just a patch on a problem that was supposed to be solved ages ago. Though it's an effective patch, the point of the internet really was to be a scale free network - not dependent on any finite number of adresses - capable of growing to infinity from any branch.

The closest we got to scale free routing was actually the much lamented NAT systems that are in use today to save IPv4 adresses, where one public IP adress can hold a number of computers under its subnet. But since the new system gives you practically unlimited number of adresses, we don't have to deal with any of that anymore.

One can see downsides of it as well, like the continued hegemony of ICANN and IANA over who gets to have what adresses and consequently who gets to be on the internet, and the possibility of assigning special markers in IP adresses for tracking individual users on the net, since you now can assing one for every living person and every pair of socks they own.
Eikka
not rated yet Feb 03, 2011
The situation has been equated to not having enough telephone numbers for everyone.


The problem is that you don't need a unique telephone number for everyone. You just need different area codes. Add one digit to a telephone number, and suddenly you have ten times the number of possible combinations, which is what the telephone companies did when more customers joined in. People got to keep their old numbers, they just had to add the right area code in front, or not even that if the call was local.

Just adding one more number to the existing IPv4 adress would have given the world over a trillion new adresses, and would have better preserved the compatibility between the old system and the new one, since you could have just zeroed out the extra number field to route to the old adresses instead of translating between two completely different adressing systems.

And if those ever run out, you could add another number and get 255 trillion new adresses.
trekgeek1
1 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2011


The problem is that you don't need a unique telephone number for everyone. You just need different area codes. Add one digit to a telephone number, and suddenly you have ten times the number of possible combinations, which is what the telephone companies did when more customers joined in.


How is that not a new phone number? That is conceptually what a new number is. I can't even think of a way to do it other than that. How is their system of adding 96 digits or "area codes" fundamentally different?


Just adding one more number to the existing IPv4 adress would have given the world over a trillion new adresses, and would have better preserved the compatibility between the old system and the new one, since you could have just zeroed out the extra number


If you have 32 bit addressing, you have about 4 billion addresses. Adding a single bit doubles that number, so you add 4 billion addresses, not trillions. 2^33= 2*2^32~2*4 billion
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2011

How is that not a new phone number? That is conceptually what a new number is.



Adding a single bit doubles that number


Each number in an IPv4 adress is an 8 bit integer, which means that for every new number you get 256 times the combinations.

IPv6 adress has a different structure where each "digit" is a 32 bit integer, and there's lots more of them, so you can't directly map IPv4 adresses into the IPv6 adress space which means that they're not directly compatible. There's a whole ugly business of fitting together IPv4 and IPv6 adresses so that the whole internet wouldn't split into two separate networks that can't communicate.

What I meant was that if we invented "IPv5" that had five 8 bit numbers, we could fit all the old adresses in the 0.x.x.x.x block, and continue from that with minimal changes to how things are actually routed. Hey presto, a trillion new adresses.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2011
Besides, here's the concern that I expressed:

Wikipedia:

IPv6 addresses have two logical parts: a 64-bit network prefix, and a 64-bit host address part. (The host address is often automatically generated from the interface MAC address.)


The start of the IPv6 adress is thus the route to your computer, and the end of it is the typically unique MAC adress that is hard coded into the network card of your computing device, which means that it indeed can be used to single you out on the internet and quite literally tell that it was you on your laptop and nobody else that visited that particular website or downloaded some particular file.

A big boon for internet anonymity and whistleblowers for sure.
CreepyD
3 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2011
I don't like the look of IPv6 addresses at all, it's gonna be a nightmare trying to remember them (I will need to working in IT). I guess there was no choice as we need the larger number of combinations.
Arkaleus
1 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2011
And now comes the final destruction of free speech, where the Internet no longer shelters the last remnant of human expression outside of corporate nation-estates. Paranoid autocrats and plutocratic corporate cabals will set about their work with renewed vigor until the last vestiges of rational liberty are purged from this prison world.

The next "kill switch" will be installed in us at birth.
trekgeek1
not rated yet Feb 05, 2011

How is that not a new phone number? That is conceptually what a new number is.



Adding a single bit doubles that number


Each number in an IPv4 adress is an 8 bit integer, which means that for every new number you get 256 times the combinations.

IPv6 adress has a different structure where each "digit" is a 32 bit integer, and there's lots more of them, so you can't directly map IPv4 adresses into the IPv6 adress space which means that they're not directly compatible. There's a whole ugly business of fitting together IPv4 and IPv6 adresses so that the whole internet wouldn't split into two separate networks that can't communicate.

What I meant was that if we invented "IPv5" that had five 8 bit numbers, we could fit all the old adresses in the 0.x.x.x.x block, and continue from that with minimal changes to how things are actually routed. Hey presto, a trillion new adresses.


By "number" I thought you meant add another bit.