ICANN Clears Way for Internet’s Next Generation

Feb 6, 2011 6:00 AM PST
CYBERSPACE — The Internet's overseers parted ways with the last 83.9 million addresses needed to connect devices to today's Net — then touted the next-generation Internet.

Today's Internet is wired up with a technology called Internet Protocol version 4, or IPv4, which comes with 4.3 billion addresses to send data from one computer to another. It’s not enough, thus sparking the move to the much more accommodating IPv6 which has now begun, according to CNET.com.

"This is one most important days in the history of the Internet. A pool of more than 4 billion Internet addresses has just been emptied this morning," said Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), at press conference in Florida.

The Net won't change immediately, but IPv6 will gradually become the way everything is connected online.

"We can think of it as generational change," said Lynn St Amour, CEO of the Internet Society, which handles some Internet standards and advocacy issues and is organizing World IPv6 Day for June 8. "The older previous generation doesn't go away, and has a lot to contribute, but it is the new generation that carries the future."

As IPv4 addresses have become more scarce, technologies such as network address translation (NAT) have sprung up to share a single address among multiple devices. That's been useful — but its affect also fragments the Internet behind an increasing number of network devices. The big message from the press conference was that only IPv6 will fulfill the promise of the Internet.

To maintain use of IPv4, "we'd need to spend increasing resources operating an increasingly brittle and non-transparent network," said Olaf Kolkman, chairman of the Internet Architecture Board. "Such an Internet is likely to grow increasingly less capable of serving our needs today. Rather than maintaining the status quo, the IPv4 Internet is likely to degenerate. If you get too many layers of [network translation], you cripple your ability to do end-to-end communications. Accessing a Web site might be possible, but accessing a file-sharing protocol or hosting your own content may become more and more difficult."

And those who ignore moving their Web sites to IPv4 risk missing out on new arrivals to the Internet who'll use IPv6, he added.

"There are now 2 billion people who connect to the Internet. We've got 6 billion people in the world who want to connect themselves and their devices. That is simply not possible with IPv4. It's just not doable," Kolkman said. "The business impact if you don't make the transition is the next 2 or 3 billion customers will run IPv6 only and will not be able to do business with you."

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