Is the Internet almost full?

By Michael Baxter on 19 April 2011 with tags Innovation

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If you've been following the news or if you're one of those unfortunate people who have to work with computers for a living, you'll probably have heard by now that the Internet is running out of space. But not, as you might expect, due to the amount of information out there. No, it's actually running out of IP addresses, which are the numerical labels computers use to find information.

What that actually means is a mystery to everyone who sees the light of day regularly. But if you were to pin down an expert on network architecture, he would, excited at this human contact, eagerly tell you that this is the birth of IPv6. The equivalent of what happened to number plates a few years back.

The reason the Internet is running out of addresses is because the current format for addresses, IPv4, has simply run out of numbers. A new format called IPv6, which can handle more than twice the number of addresses as IPv4, has long since been developed to deal with this problem. So we'll simply transition over to this new format over the next few months and years, which shouldn't be that big a deal, again unless you're one of those awful people who have to work with computers. Most of the software we already use is capable of supporting IPv6 addresses, and there are similar hardware solutions in place that will allow both addressing systems to work in parallel during this transition period.

If the transition to IPv6 doesn't go smoothly, it's possible the Internet will have to get by with its limited supply of IP addresses for an extended length of time. With limited addresses to go around, some form of address sharing may be necessary. This would involve a single IP address being shared amongst several users and could hinder communications. All going to plan however New Zealand's ISP's will roll out IPv6 this year.

IPv6 is a technical and important part of the internet. You can rest assured that all of Utopia's servers support the IPv6 system. This means if you connect up to your ISP and are assigned an IPv6 number you will still be able to pick up your email and view your website.