The Internet ran out of addresses Thursday, Dylan Tweney reports at Wired, and while you’re not going to notice any difference–at least not right away–ultimately that will mean massive investments in new technology by governments, corporations and anyone else who wants to do business online.
What actually happened is that the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is responsible for administering the pool of Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses, distributed the last blocks of IP numbers to each of the five regional authorities that allocate them to Internet service providers and other companies, which in turn assign them to customers. Those regional authorities are expected to begin running out of numbers later this year.
There are short-term workarounds to the problem, Tweney says, but they will add complexity to Internet services and likely slow connections. The ultimate solution is to implement a new Internet Protocol system, known as IPv6, that will create vastly more numbers than the 4 billion or so currently available. But that will require expensive network upgrades that most Internet companies have been avoiding.