The world is almost out of Internet IP addresses

Posted by Mark Raby

Experts say that it is only a matter of time before there are no more of the 4 billion potential combinations of 32-bit IP addresses online.

The current system in place across the Web is called Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), which uses 32-bit numbers to assign new IP addresses. Such a complex numerical system would be fine if it was being used for a college's database of students or an online retailer keeping track of order numbers, but when it comes to a number that every single Internet user needs to have, even the most vast collection of numerical combinations can get used up faster than some might expect.

Of the 4 billion possible IP addresses in the IPv4 system, about 94% of them have reportedly already been assigned.

Technology experts advocate moving into a new infrastructure called IPv6, which would use 128-bit numbers for IP addresses and make the amount of possible addresses explode exponentially. However, it has been a slow process to try to get that implemented.

"Without IPv6, the Internet's expansion and innovation could be limited. Delaying IPv6 deployment may strain the work of Internet operators, application developers, and end users everywhere," said John Curran, president and CEO for the American Registry for Internet Numbers.

Google has been one of the strongest supporters of IPv6 and has talked about it at numerous conferences throughout the world. The difficulty lies in getting an entire planet to agree to move to a new system.

If there is a zero day scenario and there are literally no new IP addresses to be assigned, the result would be damaging. Not only would expansion on the Internet be stunted but it's likely that existing IP addresses would end up being sold to the highest bidder, creating pressure and tension on the entire Internet.