The Internet is running out of addresses, and adding new domain names and suffixes isn’t going to help. The resource we are on the verge of eclipsing is Internet protocol, or IP addresses. When the internet was first put to use in the 1980’s, engineers created IPv4, which has an upper limit of 4.3 billion different IP addresses. We’ve almost accounted for them all. According to the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), only 3.4 million IP addresses are still available from the 1.3 billion IP addresses allotted to North America.
There are only 4.3 billion possible addresses in IPv4, but newer protocol IPv6 is practically unlimited, as it allows up to 340 undecilion addresses–340 followed by 36 zeroes. It would be unfathomable to run out of IP addresses in IPv6, but there are still some roadblocks to switching over to the newer protocol. Companies would have to buy new routers and network switches to upgrade their IPv4 addresses to IPv6, which can be costly.
IPv4 was actually the first version of IP addresses, back in 1981; therefore, when we say most companies use IPv4, they are still using the original incarnation of Internet protocol which was created before engineers could have possibly imagined its widespread use in everyday life.
Some companies are being proactive, for their own sake. Facebook moved 90% of its IP addresses to IPv6, which allowed for unfettered growth of the social network. Other companies are snapping up the IPv4 addresses of bankrupt companies on the chopping block; Microsoft once spent $7.5 million to purchase 666,624 addresses from dismantled Nortel Networks.
Prices are currently about $11.25 per IP address, but the president of IPv4 Market Group, Sandra Brown insists that just like all results from supply and demand, “prices are going to rise.”