Back in 1983, IANA designated around 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, not predicting the incredible pace of tech development that would ensue. Due to the explosion of mobile devices in recent years and an ever-expanding wired population, those IPv4 addresses have been effectively gobbled up.
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The IANA recognized this possibility early on, and in 1999, Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) was born. IPv6 addresses are 16-byte labels instead of 8-byte IPv4 labels, which means there are exponentially more to go around.
"I think IPv6 will easily get us 50 years, and could well get us much further," said John Heidemann, a computer scientist at University of Southern California who mapped the global distribution of those 4 billion IP addresses.
Heidemann's IP mapping also revealed that while the bulk of those IPv4 addresses have been handed out, a majority of them - roughly 85 percent - aren't actually in use.
"This result suggests to me that we can probably do better in efficiently using the addresses we have," Heidemann said. "In fact, if you look at the history of address allocation policies from ICANN (and the regional registries, we see their policies about (ensuring allocated IP addresses are utilized) before they give out more to IP addresses have gotten consistently stricter over the years."