Vinton Cerf, one of the forefathers of the Internet -- and co-creator of the somewhat popular TCP/IP protocol – gave a little chat at the University of Buenos Aires the other day. His talk was called “Tracking the Internet in the 21st century.” In the talk, he spoke about the impending shortage of IP addresses.
In the dark ages, before what is now known as the Internet came to be, they figured that IPv4 (which has given us our familiar ###.###.###.### addresses) would offer more than enough addresses for their small, burgeoning computer network. However, recently, now that the whole Internet thing has started to catch on, Inter-estate is becoming a more precious commodity, and the supply of available numbers is finally beginning to dwindle. Available addresses might even dry up by 2010.
The solution is the next Ip standard: IPv6. IPv6 allows for 128-bit addressing, allowing an for exponentially higher number of available addresses. The move to IPv6 actually started in 1997, and software support for IPv6 is already incorporated into moderately recent operating systems, such as Vista and most varieties of Linux – however, many broadband modems and routers might be rendered obsolete.
Down the road from now – even maybe 5 years from now – an IP address could look like this:
The IPv6 standard allows for roughly 3.8 x 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible IP addresses. This amount of addresses should suffice for a couple centuries – but that's only a guess.