Nostradamus* proven right! He said that one day  IPv4 would destroy the internet. 19th Century seer also predicted that ‘One will not be able to believe everything published on the Web.’** 

  • N.America and Canada have run out of old school IPv4 net addresses.
  • Its official, the internet is full.
  • Millions of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat users prepare for the end of civilisation as they know it.
  • Millions more astonished to discover that ‘Google’ is in fact, not the internet.

Well, not really, but it would be kind of interesting if it was. 

Last week the American Registry for Internet Numbers, (ARIN), the company responsible for handing out IP addresses in North America, announced that it had run out of old school IPv4 addresses for Google the internet.

That this day was coming has been well known for years. The good news, is that most people won’t be affected now, or in the future. Those most affected are large organisations, software companies and Internet Service Providers.

For those who don’t know how the internet works, here is the briefest of introductions.

internet speed

A brief history of the Internet

Every phone, computer, tablet and device that connects to and uses the internet must have an IP address. This is what identifies every machine on the internet, and allows it to use other IP addresses, such as this one: 74.125.224.72. This is Google.com’s IP address. When you type ‘Google.com’ into…well…the Google search bar, that string of 4 numbers is where you end up, because that is Google.com’s address on the internet.

The problem, is that that string of numbers only has 4 numbers in it, and the organisation that hands them out to companies, hands them out at around a million a time. Back in the 1970s, when the internet was created, few predicted that the internet was going to become the size it has. 30 years ago, having a possible 4.3 billion individual IP addresses probably seemed like overkill.

ARIN reported last week that it currently only has around 130,000 left.

The end of the internet then?

No. Fortunately, back in the late 1990’s pretty much in parralel with the original dot.com technology bubble, some forward thinking people saw that IPv4 was going to run out so designed something called IPv6 instead. Essentially while IPv4 had 4.3,000,000,000 IP addresses, IPv6 has 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible IP addresses available to use. And the good news, is that most new devices and every current Operating system already uses it.

So, there’s not really any problem with the internet?

No, not really. You may go about your business, these are not the droids you’re looking for etc. Most organizations, like Internet Service Providers, and those institutions that form the backbone of the internet etc, have been slowly making the transition away from IPv4 to IPv6 for several years. The issue is that IPv4 and IPv6 can’t really talk to each other, without some technology hocus pocus being stuck between them. But again, as ISPs and Server suppliers upgrade and modernise their infrastructure, the transition should in the main, be fairly seamless.

So what’s the big deal then?

IPv4 was the internet standard that survived. Once upon time there were others, but they didn’t last. The amazing thing about IPv4 was that IPv4 wasn’t supposed to form the nuts and bolts of the internet. It was designed to test the orginal internet. Put bluntly, it was an “an experiment that escaped the lab.”

IPv4’s demise marks a milestone in the brief history of the internet. In a hundred years time, Ipv4 may not even garner a footnote in history, but for now, its passing is significant. Its success and durability is a true testament to the advancement of technology and the growth of the internet.

*I know Nostradamus was not alive in the 19th Century.

** It was actually Abraham Lincoln who said this.