Why the need for IPv6? Blame Vint Cerf.

Internet pioneer says it's his fault IPv4 is running out of addresses

The world is running out of IPv4 addresses, forcing the adoption of a new generation of Internet protocols, IPv6, to keep the Internet running. Whose bright idea was that?

“It’s my fault,” confessed Vint Cerf, godfather of the Internet.

Cerf, now chief Internet evangelist at Google, came to Washington in 1976 as a program manager at the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to help develop a new set of networking protocols, TCP/IP, for the experimental packet-switched network called the ARPAnet. One of the decisions his team needed to make was the size of the address space in the packets.

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Cerf says Internet lacks essential features

Some researchers wanted a 128-bit space for the binary address, Cerf told an audience at a recent IPv6 workshop that the National Telecommunications and Information Agency hosted. But others said, “That’s crazy,” because it's far larger than necessary, and they suggested a much smaller space. Cerf finally settled on a 32-bit space that was incorporated into IPv4 and provided a respectable 4.3 billion separate addresses.

“It’s enough to do an experiment,” he said. “The problem is the experiment never ended.”

Some 34 years later, those addresses are almost used up, and the 128-bit address is being adopted — large enough to provide an exponentially greater number of addresses. It's a number so difficult for the mind to grasp that it typically is described in terms of grains of sand on a beach or golf balls filling the sun.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 Jeffrey A. Williams Frisco Texas

IPv6 will not be enough either. That is why IPv8 was developed and is being slowly deployed but remains largely not recognized. Further IPv6 has significant security holes that have yet to be broadly discussed but are not unknown.

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 Lee J Hampton, VA

Or the need for "maybe 5 computers in the whole world".

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 Chip Hollywood, Florida

"“It’s my fault,” confessed Vint Cerf, godfather of the Internet." In his defense, the idea of *everthing* being connected to the network was a concept so far out in concept that the need was never really imagined properly. This was at the same time that we we're going to have bases on the moon, space stations in orbit with giant elevators to get us there. With a just a bit of examination those ideas were far out on the scale of happening just like the idea of address space every running out.

Tue, Oct 19, 2010

Right up there with 'nobody will ever need more than 640k of RAM...'

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