Is the Internet Running Out of Room?

You’ve probably heard of IP addresses, but do you know exactly how they work—and why the web may be running out?

As a web-savvy person, you probably know you have an IP address, but may not know exactly how it works or why it’s needed.

The term is so ubiquitous online for good reason: the Internet itself couldn’t exist without them. Every web-capable device needs an IP (Internet Protocol) address to enable it to access the Internet. Without an IP address, computers wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other.

Every internet-capable device, from your computer to your smartphone, has its own unique identifying IP address. Your IP address acts as an ID number, identifying your computer whenever it accesses any information from the web. Your unique IP address can reveal your general location in the world, and can be traced back to your device.

The version of IP addresses in use today is called IPv4 because it contains four different values separated by periods (for example, 192.168.0.01). Using this configuration, there are over four billion different possible IP addresses.

While this seems like a huge number, most of those 4 billion addresses have already been assigned. Today there are more devices than ever going online, including tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more. A single household could be using dozens of unique IP addresses depending on the number of devices accessing the internet.

That’s why a new version of IP addresses called IPv6 is now in the works. Already, devices are gradually switching over to the new format, which expands IP addresses to 6 values instead of just 4. While IPv4 addresses still make up the vast majority of internet traffic (over 90%), more and more are switching to IPv6, including the U.S. and Chinese governments, and some wireless companies such as Verizon and T-Mobile.

Your IP address is a unique identifying number that can be traced back to you. That’s why, if you’re concerned about internet freedom and privacy, you should learn how to look up your IP address and change it if needed.

Here’s a complete guide to IP addresses, how they work, and why they just might be running out. You can follow the steps below to learn several methods of looking up your own IP address and methods to easily change it.

Is the Internet Running out of room

Transcript: Is the Internet Running Out of Room?

Unless you’re a networking or Internet service guru, chances are, you’ve heard of the term IP (Internet Protocol) address, but you’re not too sure what it is, or what it does. Get all the answers here.

What is an IP Address?

  • IP addresses are assigned to each computer on an Ethernet network.
    • It’s much like your home address: it helps to identify network computers.
    • Helps traffic flow between computers.
  • IP addresses are formatted as a series of values, separated by periods.
    • Each value is a number ranging from 0 to 255.
      • IPv4: Uses 32 bits with four sets of values, such as: 192.168.0.1
        • It’s limited because it can only support around 4.29 billion unique addresses; many of which have been assigned.
  • For your home or office network, your router assigns IP addresses, using Dynamic Host Configuration (DHCP) technology.
    • Your router gets its IP address from your Internet service provider (ISP)
      • That IP address is an Internet IP address, shared by all the computers on your network.
      • If the router does not assign an IP address, one must be manually configured with help from your ISP.
      • Local IP addresses start with either:
        • 192.168 or,
        • 10.0
    • DHCP technology is used to determine:
      • Whether your IP Is static or dynamic
        • Static/Fixed: remains the same all the time
        • Used by all:
          • Major web sites
          • Email services
          • FTP services
        • Dynamic: changes periodically
      • The length of time your IP address is assigned
  • The router tracks each computer’s network interface card (NIC) and maps an IP address to it each time the computer joins the network.
    • NIC is the hardware in your computer that allows you to connect to networks, often pre-installed.
  • All computers and other devices connected to a network, such as smartphones, tablets, and fax machines, have a unique IP address.
    • No two computers on the network may have the same IP address.
    • Without the IP address, computers and mobile devices would not be able to communicate with each other.

How to Find Your IP Address

  • With the Internet:
    • Visit: WhatIsMyIP.com or WhatIsMyIPAddress.com to see your IP address.
      • You’ll see your Internet provider and location, as well.
  • If you run Windows:
    • Version 8.x:
      • Press Win-r (Windows button and R) .
      • Type cmd and press Enter.
      • At the command prompt, enter: ipconfig
    • Version 7:
      • With the command prompt:
        • Click Start, and then select All Programs.
        • Click Accessories, and then Command Prompt.
        • At the command prompt, enter: ipconfig
      • Without using the command prompt:
        • In the notification area, click the network connection icon and select Open Network and Sharing Center.
        • To view the IP address of a wired connection, click Local Area Connection.
        • To view the IP address of a wireless adapter, click Wireless Network Connection (Network Name).
        • Click Details. Your IP address will appear next to “IPv4 Address”.
    • Windows Vista:
      • With the command prompt:
        • Click Start, and then select All Programs.
        • Click Accessories, and then Command Prompt.
        • At the command prompt, enter: ipconfig
      • WIthout using the command prompt:
        • From the Start menu, right-click Network, and then select Properties. This opens the Network and Sharing Center.
        • To view the IP address of a wired connection, click View Status to the right of Local Area Connection.
        • To view the IP address of a wireless adapter, click View Status to the right of Wireless Network Connection.
        • Click Details. Your IP address will appear next to “IPv4 IP Address”.
    • Windows XP:
      • With the command prompt:
        • Click Start, and then select All Programs.
        • Click Accessories, and then Command Prompt.
        • At the command prompt, enter: ipconfig
      • Without using the command prompt:
        • From the Start menu, right-click My Network Places, and then click Properties.
        • To view the IP address of a wired connection, double-click Local Area Connection.
        • To view the IP address of a wireless adapter, double-click Wireless Network Connection.
        • Click the Support tab, and then click Details… . The window that appears will display the IP address.
  • If you run Mac OS X:
    • From the Apple menu, select System Preferences. In System Preferences, from the View menu, select Network.
    • In the Network preference window, click a network port (e.g., Ethernet, AirPort, Wi-Fi). If you are connected, you’ll see your IP address under “Status:”.
  • If you run a Unix Based OS, like Ubuntu:
    • Make sure you are logged in as a superuser.
    • Open your terminal.
    • Type ifconfig.
    • From here, you’ll see a list of all your network interfaces.
    • Look for the “inet addr:” section, and you will find your IP address.
      • If necessary, use the command man ifconfig to find more information.

Can You Change Your IP Address?

  • You can change the IP address on your home computer.
    • Some methods may or may not work, depending on your configuration.
    • If you have a static IP, it cannot be changed.
  • Method 1: Turn off or unplug your modem for five minutes. Plugging it back should refresh your connection with a new IP. If not, try leaving it unplugged overnight.
  • Method 2: If you have a laptop, you can temporarily change your IP address anytime you change Wi-Fi networks.
    • Example: IP address 1 at home, IP address 2 at your local coffee shop, and IP address 3 at your local bookstore or fast food restaurant.
  • Method 3: Call your ISP to ask them to change the IP for you, or to find out how long you have to be unplugged to get an automatic change.

Why is the Internet Running Out of IP Addresses?

  • More than just websites, every single thing connected to the Internet, must have an IP.
    • As more devices come online, IP addresses are quickly being used up:
      • Smartphones
      • Gaming consoles
      • Printers
      • Blu-ray players
      • Streaming video devices
      • Tablets
      • Smart TVs
    • An estimated 6.1 billion new devices will connect to the Internet over 2014.
      • Another 19.42 billion devices will connect between 2015 and 2017.
      • In 2010, Ericsson CEO estimated 50 billion devices would be connected by 2020; his estimate now seems low.

Don’t Worry…

IPv6 may save the day.

  • IPv6: Uses 128 bits and looks like this: 2002:4559:1FE2:0000:0000:0000:4559:1FE2
  • Sets of four zeros (0000) can be replaced with a colon to compress the IP into: 2002:4559:1FE2::4559:1FE2
  • It’s the new successor to IPv4, with support for up to 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses to ensure the Internet doesn’t run out of space anytime soon.
    • Not all servers and routers have made the switch to IPv6 yet, as this will be a slow and gradual switch due to financial and security issues associated with the change.
    • Consumers won’t notice a difference, as IPv4 and IPv6 protocols communicate freely with one another

Sources

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