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IPv4 Exhaustion - What Is It And How Will It Affect Web Users?

Posted 13th September, 2013 by Aliysa

There’s a good chance that you’ve stumbled across the term ‘IPv4 exhaustion.’ The issue has enormous significance for the Internet as a global network and will, at some point, effect a great deal of web users. In this article I’ll cover some of the most important questions regarding IPv4 and the introduction of IPv6.

Let’s start with the basics. An IP address is essentially a unique identifier, much like a phone number, that allows communication between machines on a network i.e. all devices connected to the internet. Domain names act as human-friendly ‘nicknames’ for IP addresses (ours is Internet Protocol Version 4, better known as IPv4, is the first and only widely deployed language or computer protocol for sending information between computers and the Internet. IPv4 addresses consist of four octets or numbers, each ranging from 0 to 255.

So, What's The Problem With IPv4?

IPv4 has a capacity of more than 4 billion, or to be precise 4 294 967 296 addresses. Over three decades ago, when IPv4 was first implemented, this number seemed sufficient for the Internets then primitive purpose. Of course, the immense popularity and global adoption of the Internet was not anticipated and today, with around 2 billion users, IPv4 addresses are short in supply. Contributing factors towards this diminishing stock of addresses include the growing demand for Internet-hosting mobile devices which all require a unique IP address, the more recent uptake of the web in highly-populated countries like China and India and the inefficient allocation of huge blocks of address space in the ‘80s.

What Are The Implications of IPv4 Depletion?

IPv4 depletion will impact all web users. The unavailability of IP addresses means, in a sense, that the Internet is near full capacity and that end-to-end connectivity with new network devices will not be possible (this is a requirement for many applications, so poses a noteworthy problem). Additionally, this shortage is creating a new market for IP addresses, meaning a monetary price is being put on a previously free resource. It also impacts Internet service providers (ISPs), as creating and adopting new technology to overcome this problem requires considerable investment.

How Can We Solve This Issue?

1. Tighter Control Of IPv4 Addresses

One of the ways in which the supply of IPv4 addresses is being nursed is through tighter control of address allocation to local Internet registries - like Tsohost. Regional Internet Registries responsible for this are also reclaiming large blocks of address space wastefully allocated years ago.

To further save IPv4 addresses, new approaches to network design are being developed and have been implemented. This includes virtual-hosting: hosting multiple domains on one server (with one IP address). This is something we offer. Server Name Indication (SNI) is an extension to the SSL protocol, designed to bypass the need for a website with an SSL certificate to have a dedicated IP address. In the near future we will also offer this technology meaning securing your e-commerce site is more affordable.

Internet service providers are exploring the possibility of configuring IPv4 networks, to deter from end-to-end design with something known as Carrier-grade NAT. This would mean that geographical communities e.g. a residential street, would share one public IP address, with each household having a private address. A number of problems are associated with this concept. If one household ‘misbehaved’ online, for instance sent spam emails, then eventually the communal IP address would be blocked, preventing responsible web users from accessing the web. There are other issues relating to this concept, but ISPs prefer this solution as a currently less-expensive option to the second option, which is the implementation of a new system known as IPv6.

2. The Implementation Of A New System: IPv6

IPv6 is the latest revision of the Internet protocol which is considered as the long-term solution to IPv4 address exhaustion. The central feature of IPv6 is its vast capacity. It allows 2^128 addresses or, to represent visually:


IPv6 also bestows additional benefits in regards to security and quality of use, and allows the Internet to maintain its intended end-to-end configuration.

What Are The Implications Of IPv6 Deployment?

The main factor preventing widespread IPv6 deployment and usage is - you guessed it - money. IPv4 and IPv6 are not designed to be interoperable or compatible, meaning Internet infrastructure will have to be upgraded because most of the Internet is inaccessible to IPv6 address users. This would be extremely costly to ISPs, hence the slow uptake of this technology and the focus on prolonging the lifespan of IPv4. One solution to this is Dual Stacking, which allows IPv4 and IPv6 to run side-by-side, sharing the same network infrastructure, but as mentioned, much of this framework would require software and hardware updates to fully support IPv6.

How Will This Affect Web Users?

Since World IPv6 Launch day on June 6, 2012, where an array of the biggest Internet-based companies in the world permanently deployed IPv6, the uptake of this technology has been steadily increasing, but still only a small percentage of web users have IPv6 connectivity. Most operating systems and popular network-capable applications now support IPv6, though a lot of routers and servers do not - this is something home users should investigate. To avoid losing custom from IPv6 users, businesses should ensure IPv4 and IPv6 can coexist on their network. IPv6 is the future of the Internet and although it may not be implemented on a widespread level for a number of years, it’s best to be aware and ready for this change. We are IPv6 ready and prepared for this change in Internet configuration, so we can support our customers through every step of the transitional period.

Categories: Cloud Web Hosting, SSL, Domains

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