Web Running Out of Addresses

The Internet is about to run out of new addresses, a milestone that is spurring Web giants like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. to develop new versions of their sites and prompting carriers like AT&T Inc. and others to upgrade networks.

This week, the last batch of existing Internet protocol addresses is set to run out. The solution to the dilemma? A new addressing scheme that tech companies like Facebook and Google are planning to test. WSJ’s Ben Worthen reports.

This week, the organization that oversees Internet addresses is expected to dole out its last batch of existing Internet protocol addresses, a step akin to telephone companies running out of numbers to give customers.

Internet protocol addresses are numerical labels that direct online traffic to the right location, similar to the way a letter makes its way through the postal system. Such routing is generally invisible to users—when they type in www.facebook.com, for instance, they are actually connected to a computer located at the numerical address It is those numbers that are in dwindling supply.


While there is a new Internet addressing system ready to go that greatly expands the number of addresses, it isn’t compatible with the existing system. So in June, Google, Facebook, Yahoo Inc. and others will switch over to the new addresses for one day in the first wide-scale test of the new network, dubbed IP version six, or IPv6.A permanent shift to a new Internet addressing system is still years off. But it is now inevitable, said Lorenzo Colitti, an engineer at Google who is helping to oversee the search company’s transition to IPv6. Switching to the new network, “is critical to preserving the Internet as we know it,” he said, adding it’s the only way that Google will be able to be accessible to future users of the Internet.The shift—similar to the move to 10-digit telephone dialing—is necessary because of a quirk in the way the Internet is designed. The Web is made up of networking equipment like routers and servers that decode electronic signals using an addressing system developed more than 30 years ago.That addressing system is called IP version four, or IPv4, which allows for about 4.3 billion possible addresses. In the 1970s, that number of IP addresses was more than enough as the Internet only connected a small number of government and university researchers.But now all sorts of devices connect to the Internet as does an ever-growing percentage of the world’s population. That has caused the number of available addresses to drop from more than 1 billion in June 2006 to just 117 million in December 2010, according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers.

More than a decade ago, the Internet’s founding fathers developed the much longer IPv6 addressing system that allows for a near-infinite number of websites and devices. Still, less than 0.25% of people currently access the Internet with IPv6 connections, Google says.

If the changeover to IPv6 goes well, the transition—likely to happen gradually over a number of years—won’t have a big impact on consumers. Some older operating systems and home routers won’t work with the new addresses, but ones bought in the last couple of years should, according to networking experts.

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Businesses need to install networking gear compatible with the new addresses and build connections to their websites for people using the new addresses. Above, an Asustek Eee Slate EP121 tablet computer.

Telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have been upgrading their Internet and cellular networks. For instance, over the past few years, AT&T has spent “hundreds of millions” of dollars retooling its Internet network for large companies, in addition to regularly buying networking equipment that’s compatible with the new addressing system, said Dale McHenry, vice president of enterprise network services.

An illustration of an example IPv6 address

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When Verizon Wireless begins adding cellphones to its new 4G network later this year, every device will be given one of the new breed of addresses, though the phones will work with websites addressed under the old system, too.”It’s part of our device requirements,” said Chris Neisinger, executive director of technology at Verizon Wireless. “It has to be IPv6 compatible to be on the network.”

Businesses, however, need to install networking gear compatible with the new addresses and build connections to their websites for people using the new addresses.

Last year the federal government’s chief information officer said all new technology purchases made by government agencies must be compatible with the new addressing scheme and ordered the agencies to upgrade websites amd equipment.

TCP/IP stack operating on two hosts connected ...

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Companies like Cisco Systems Inc., which makes routers and switches, stand to benefit. “It’s a gold mine because everybody eventually has to upgrade” to equipment that is compatible with IPv6, which Cisco began selling several years ago, said Joel Conover, a Cisco senior marketing manager.

At Facebook, the company said it began planning for a transition to IPv6 three years ago, steadily upgrading its equipment with gear that supports both the new and the old addressing scheme. It launched its IPv6 website last summer, though it is rarely visited.

That site, www.v6.facebook.com, needs to be typed in manually and can only be viewed by people with an IPv6 connection, meaning that more than 99% of Facebook visitors who use the old addresses would get an error message.

Facebook, Google and others announced the June test last month along with the Internet Society, a nonprofit focused on Internet policy, in order to test how well their IPv6 sites work.

Up to now, the new addressing scheme has been stuck in a chicken-and-egg problem: No one wants to develop services using the new scheme until there’s a network for accessing them; no one wants to build the network until there are services to drive demand.

Encapsulation of application data descending t...

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One of the reasons Facebook is participating in the June test, dubbed World IPv6 Day, is to try to break that standoff, says Jonathan Hellinger, Facebook’s vice president of technical operations.

Other companies haven’t yet begun revamping their websites. Bryan Panovich, manager of network services for Eaton Corp., said the Cleveland maker of electrical and hydraulic partsis in the process of securing IPv6 addresses, but isn’t planning to update its websites until more customers and other visitors to the sites are using IPv6 connections.

Running out of the old addresses should help hasten the switchover. “The handing out of the last space is irreversible,” said Leslie Daigle, chief internet technology officer for the Internet Society, adding that it should show “those who have to move that this is not a hypothetical.”


IPV4fejlec, internet protocol

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(CNN) — On Thursday, the internet as we know it ran out of space.

The nonprofit group that assigns addresses to service providers announced that, on Thursday morning, it allocated the last free internet addresses available from the current pool used for most of the internet’s history.

“This is an historic day in the history of the internet, and one we have been anticipating for quite some time,” said Raul Echeberria, chairman of the Number Resource Organization.

A graphic representation of the Internet Proto...

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But fear not. The group has seen this coming for more than a decade and is ready with a new pool of addresses that it expects to last, well, forever.

John Curran, CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, said the old pool of Internet Protocol addresses had about 4.3 billion addresses.

“A billion sounds like a lot,” Curran said Thursday morning. “But when you think that there’s nearly 7 billion people on the planet, and you’re talking about two, three, four, five addresses per person (for some Web users), obviously 4.3 billion isn’t enough.”

The new pool, which has technically been ready since 1999, has so many IP addresses that most non-mathematicians probably don’t even know the number exists — 340 undecillion.

That’s 340 trillion groups of one trillion networks each. Each network can handle a trillion devices. If the current pool were the size of a golf ball, the new one would be the size of the sun.

Voice over Internet Protocol, how it works

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“I hope this is the only transition we ever have to do,” Curran said.

Curran said most internet users won’t see any effect from the transition. Businesses or others with their own websites may want to contact their providers to make sure they’re linked to a new address to ensure that future users can visit as easily as possible.

Most people access websites by their domain names, or URLs. Those are usually word-based, like CNN.com.

But the actual address of sites and devices is a string of numbers and decimal points. The new system uses a much longer string, and has numbers and other characters.

Internet addresses aren’t limited to websites; every internet-connected device has a built-in IP address. Curran said that the numbers started running out much more quickly once smartphones and other mobile devices became more popular around the world.

The Number Resource Organization is an umbrella group for five regional nonprofits, including Curran’s, that parcel out addresses. On Monday, it handed out two packets of current addresses to the group in the Asian-Pacific region.

That triggered a plan to divide the last five packets between the NRO’s five groups on Thursday.

Growth of the number of AS on the Internet

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A few addresses using the new address pool — it’s called IPv6 and the current one is IPv4 — have already been parceled out to service providers who requested them.

Curran said it will probably be six to nine months before the addresses already handed out are all used up.

Web Running Out of Addresses – WSJ.com.

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