Don't look now, but we're about to run out of 1 type of IP address. Here's why you should care.

Hey, remember when we ran out of phone numbers in 2001?

Back then, people were in a panic about having to start dialing area codes with every call. The New York Times even warned, at the time, that we may be in store for "yet another number shortage within a decade that could lead to a wholesale revamping of the system."

This is how people felt about area codes in 2001. GIF from "In Bruges."


While that never came to pass, we do suddenly find ourselves in another sort of pickle. Because, seemingly out of nowhere, we have reached the end of the Internet.

Just like the "number exhaustion" of yesteryear, 2015 will be known as the year we ran out of IP addresses.


An IP address is a number assigned to any device that connects to the Internet. You've probably seen them before – it might look something like 64.233.160.0 (which is just one of many IP addresses that belong to Google).

Just like you need to know someone's home address in order to send them a letter, a website or database needs to know your IP address in order to deliver data to your device.

IPv4, the current numbering system, originally allowed for about 4.3 billion unique combinations. And we've only got about 100,000 left.

Relax, there's nothing you need to do to prepare. But that doesn't mean IP address depletion won't affect you.

There's a new numbering system that's been rolling out for a while called IPv6 (no word on why they skipped v5) that allows for 340 undecillion unique IP addresses — or in other words, way more.

Most likely, everyday users like you may only notice some small improvements with IPv6, like better security encryption and smoother delivery of video data.

But there are definitely bigger ramifications.

With the unprecedented growth of the web, net neutrality is more important than ever.

We've certainly come a long way. Photo by Hanan Cohen/Flickr.

There are over a billion active websites on the web today, with over 2 billion people worldwide using the Internet regularly.

Think about that! In the world we live in today, you can feasibly connect with almost anyone old enough to use a computer or mobile device. You can be exposed to a near infinite variety of stories, cultures, and perspectives.

But not if companies like Comcast and Verizonwho want more control over what we see and how we see it — get their way.

As the web continues to grow, let's hope for more diversity and inclusion. Not less.

You can help make it happen by going to Save the Internet and joining the fight, either by signing a petition or making a donation to the cause.

"IPv4 depleting is a testament to the success of the Internet," Richard Jimmerson, chief information office of the American Registry for Internet Numbers told CBSNews. "The Internet is one of the most significant advancements we have made in our generation. I'm very excited we are moving on to do more things that we can't even imagine today."

Hopefully he's right.

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