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IPv4 address depletion makes measuring the size of the Web more difficult

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September 19, 2016

ITDirection.net has been saying this for the past two years and now it's happening: IPv4 address depletion is making it much more difficult to accurately measure the size of the Web, even as IPv6 address deployment is accelerating faster than was predicted in early 2014. Yes, you saw it here first.

To be sure, while IPv6 address assignments actually doubled last year to 400 million addresses by year-end, the huge majority of users are still on IPv4 addresses, mostly via dynamic assignment or simply with static IPs.

For their part, MIT researchers and the people at Akamai say the overall growth in the IPv4 address segment hit the ceiling in mid-2014 and is very stagnant right now at a little over 800 million each month, and 1.2 billion unique addresses for the whole of 2015.

At APNIC, lead author Philipp Richter of Akamai and the Technical University of Berlin writes-- “The stagnant active IPv4 client address counts, despite ongoing Internet growth, mark a new era of the Internet, one in which the Web's actual growth cannot be tracked by just counting active IPv4 addresses anymore.”

In their paper at Arxiv, the researchers explain the overall importance of address-based metrics. As well as helping ISPs and regulators plan for the future, IP addresses are used for:

  • Reputation-based security systems;
  • Address geolocation;
  • Network troubleshooting.
  • The researchers at MIT also noted that static IPv4 addressing is wasteful, although not everyone might agree on that assumption.

    “We find that about 60 percent of statically assigned IP address blocks show less than a quarter of the contained addresses as active”, the paper states.

    “However, most dynamic address blocks show activity for most or all contained IP addresses,” they claim.

    It's quite likely that as address value rises, more static addresses will be returned by the organizations that hold them. As the paper notes-- “While network restructuring can be cumbersome, it could certainly provide significant IPv4 address space utilisation potential”.

    Richter's co-authors are MIT's Georgios Smaragdakis, David Plonka of Akamai, and Arther Berger of Akamai. We'll keep you posted with an update to this story before the end of the year.

    Source: MIT and Akamai.

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