Most users believe in the inexhaustible space on the internet but most people who log on to the net would not believe the problem internet is currently facing - running out of IP addresses.
IP Address, or Internet Protocol Address, in simple terms is just the unique name of your computer online. It allows people to identify you and the location you are based in. The websites and the URLs we use log in to a website also have an IP address but generally have names like google.com or facebook.com to make it easier on the human brains that obviously cannot remember such long stream of numbers.
Except, now the version of the IP addresses the world is working on - IP version 4 - is running out. As of January 14, 2011, the IANA Unallocated Address Pool is expected to be exhausted as early as 19th Feb 2011.
Which means no more new websites from next month, unless we come up with more numbers and combinations for new addresses.
Hence, most companies are now planning to migrate to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).
IPv6 has been slowly adopted already by several companies, including Google. But it will be unveiled to the public for the first time on June 8, 2011.
Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other biggies in the internet world will allow access for 24 hours on their IPv6 support and will be a mega-test for the internet to see if it can support the new IP system without crashing.
Most users still do question the reason for the switch, other than the exhaustion of the older IP addresses. There are several costs and risks associated with the adoption of the new IP address system.
The new IP address system, however, makes routing faster and easier as it allows large blocks to be assigned for specific purposes.
The IPv6 uses a 128-bit address size, compared to the 32-bit address size that is used by IPv4 currently. Naturally, this translates to more potential combinations of unique addresses. Wikipedia estimates this at 2128 number of addresses, which hopefully should be enough for the foreseeable future.
Internet users might not really see much a difference in using these websites on June 8. Some reports state that there could be a few 'rare cases' with connectivity problems but for most parts, users will remain unaffected.
The switch to a new IP address format is only one among the several changes that internet is seeing since it went public in the 1990s. Though forms of the 'internet' (the word had not yet been coined then) were around since the 50s, it evolved from internal communications to the general public much later.
IP addresses can be public or private and generally the most popular way to trace someone online.
Most users on the internet are unaware that their IP addresses remain mostly static, and are as good as a footprint in cement.
Google Analytics, for instance, makes use of IP addresses. The application is familiar to anyone who wanted statistics on one's blog or a website. It uses IP addresses to give you a comprehensive look about how many people visit a site each month, what geographical area do these people live in/access the site from, what devices are they using to access the site and more.
Germany believes that this could be a violation of privacy and is considering to fine businesses that use Google Analytics.
There are also several other websites, including blogs like Wordpress or some websites that one can leave comments on record IP addresses.
Such open access to IP addresses could leave one's computer vulnerable to attacks. A continuous stream of pings, or a 'ping of death' to a particular ID could result in the computer crashing.
(Additional reporting by Bitan Banerjee)