Could the Internet ever run out of space for new devices? Not exactly, but the Internet is actually running low on numbers. Resolving this shortage requires costly hardware and software upgrades by internet service providers and registries, something not everyone is willing or able to invest in.

Everything connected to the Internet – your phone, your laptop, your smart TV – has a unique number called an IP address that other devices use to communicate with it. In 1983, the IPv4 protocol was built to provide unique IP addresses for just over four billion devices. This was plenty in the 80s, but a skyrocketing number of phones, watches, fridges and other connected devices has exhausted the supply.

“The Internet is full,” wrote Ars Electronica back in 2014, and an opaque global market has sprung up to facilitate the transfer of IPv4 addresses between large companies who need them.

To avert crisis, the Internet Society, ICANN and other technical stewards of the Internet have long been urging internet service providers, hardware companies and network operators to upgrade to a new version of the Internet Protocol. Developed in 1998, IPv6 enhances network efficiency, and has better security features. It also creates 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses. That should be enough.

Uptake has been slow, but is now picking up in a way that is significant and measurable in several countries, says the Internet Society in their 2017 State of IPv6 Deployment report. You can check the status of your own Internet service provider, and encourage them to make the switch too.

IPv6 connectivity among Google users worldwide


Source: Google