Internet Running Out of IP Addresses
The five last blocks of IP addresses, each with 16.8 million addresses, are to be distributed on Thursday by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to regional registries around the world, The Associated Press reports, citing people familiar with the situation who spoke anonymously.
The regional groups distribute the addresses to Internet service providers and websites. John Curran, chief executive of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, which covers the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean region, told AP he expects his numbers to last up to nine months.
The system now in use, called Internet Protocol version 4, has been around since the 1980s. While experts have known for years that the numbers would one day be depleted, their end is pressuring websites and service providers to move more quickly on technology to create more numbers, AP says. The addresses allow Internet users to reach the websites they're seeking and their e-emails to reach their destinations.
As the 4.3 billion version 4 numbers run out, service providers will give out IPv6 numbers, AP said, although only about 2 percent of websites now support it. Those few sites are among the most-visited sites like Google and Facebook, AP said.
Several technologies "translate" version 4 addresses to version 6, but they haven't been widely tested, Curran told AP, which could lead to slow Web surfing.
Version 4 addresses have run out largely due to so many Internet-equipped phones being used around the world and more Internet use in Asia, AP said.
Two of the last seven version 4 blocks were given to the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre on Tuesday, AP said. That triggered a rule that requires IANA to distribute the final five blocks, one to each of the regional Internet registries around the world, IDG News Service reports.
Curran said that if everything goes as planned, Web users won't notice any changes. But experts told The Guardian newspaper that because officials waited until the last minute, there could be problems.
"You might find that you can't get online unless someone else goes offline," James Blessing, a member of the board of the U.K.'s Internet Service Providers Association, told the paper. "It would be like the Internet before broadband, when everything was on dial-up modems, and if too many people were dialing in then you couldn't get connected."
Alex Pawlik, chief executive of the network coordination center RIPE, which gives out Internet addresses in Europe, told the British paper: "I think in about six months' time people will be waking up and will have to explain to their boss why they haven't done anything about it."