Your IP address is your ticket to the greatest ride humanity has ever built: the Internet. You don't get the same one every time, and in less than a year you may not get any at all. We're running out of IP addresses to go around. So, is it time to panic?
Right now we use Internet Protocol version 4 (or IPv4) to dish out IP addresses to the computers, smartphones and any number of other devices that require them these days — which could be anything from a digital photo frame to a refrigerator. With IPv4, we have about four billion of these unique IDs to hand out, and they are always being repurposed and redistributed. Back in 1981 when the standard was introduced, when computers weren't in every home and smartphones didn't exist, four billion probably sounded like plenty.
Now, however, experts are saying that we could exhaust IPv4's available addresses in less than a year.
That could mean queues to be able to get online. You'd have to wait for someone else to stop using an address before you can take advantage of it. Maybe it'd even come to rationing — you couldn't use your smartphone and computer to access the Internet at the same time, say.
Or maybe ISPs and tech companies will have to do what it's been doing since 1981: adapt and evolve.
There's already a new standard around the corner in IPv6. It uses 128-bit addresses to IPv4's 32-bit ones, meaning that the number of addresses it can crank out is amazingly longer. It's also more secure, to boot. The newest versions of Windows and OS X are already compatible, so what's stopping it? The cost.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the "upfront costs of moving to the new protocol will be high" and "delays would push costs even higher." In a world where we're already suffering from bandwidth caps and higher priced, high-speed Internet, it'll be interesting to see if "Now with IPv6!" is stamped on even higher ISP bills.
What can you take away from this? IPv4 isn't adequate anymore. Newer devices will need to start using IPv6, and, honestly, the general consumer probably won't even see the switch.