If you didn't get an Internet address today, you missed your chance.

The numerical Internet addresses, described by the protocol known as IPv4, will be gone after today, to be replaced by IPv6, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said.

At a press conference in Miami, ICANN said the internet's future expansion relies on IPv6, which will have to co-exist with the current internet protocol of IPv4, at least for a while.

Every device that can connect to the internet needs its own IP address, and under IPv4, there are a maximum of 4,294,967,296 IP addresses, which equates to 4.2 billion. The pool is nearly empty and the final allocation has been administered by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), under the authority of ICANN.

This is a major turning point in the on-going development of the Internet, said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's president and chief executive, at the press conference. No one was caught off guard by this. The Internet technical community has been planning for IPv4 depletion for some time. But it means the adoption of IPv6 is now of paramount importance, since it will allow the Internet to continue its amazing growth and foster the global innovation we've all come to expect.

The new pool of IPv6 addresses is a lot larger than IPv4. ICANN estimates it's a hundred trillion times bigger than IPv4, which makes it virtually inexhaustible.

The major difference between the two is that IPv4 relies on 32-bit addresses, which is expressed in four octets. An example of IPv4 is 192.168.10. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses expressed in hexadecimal numbers, for example 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334.

For most operating systems, ICANN says IPv6 is enabled by default. If they are not, software distributors always include details on how to configure IPv6.

ICANN said the allocation of the final IPv4 addresses is similar to the last crates of a product leaving a manufacturing warehouse and going to the regional store so they can still be distributed to the public. They were allocated in two blocks to the Asia Pacific region by the Regional Internet Registry (RIR).

It's only a matter of time before the RIRs and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must start denying requests for IPv4 address space, Raúl Echeberría, chairman of the Number Resource Organization, the umbrella organization of the five RIRs, said at the press conference. Deploying IPv6 is now a requirement, not an option.