Have you ever wondered how your device connects to the Internet? How does it know where to find other devices and websites? The answer is: it uses an Internet address.
An Internet address is a unique number that identifies your device on the Internet. It allows your device to send and receive data with other devices. It’s like a phone number for your device.
There are different types of Internet addresses, but the most common one is called IPv4. IPv4 stands for Internet Protocol version 4. It’s a system that was created in 1974 by two scientists who wanted to connect different networks together.
An IPv4 address looks like this: 192.168.0.1. It has four numbers, each between 0 and 255, separated by dots. Each number can have up to 256 possible values, so there are over four billion possible IPv4 addresses.
That sounds like a lot, right? Well, not really. There are more than seven billion people in the world, and many of them have more than one device that needs an Internet address. Think about your smartphone, laptop, tablet, smart TV, etc.
So how do we deal with this problem? How do we make sure that everyone has an Internet address?
The answer is: we don’t.
The Uneven Distribution of IPv4 Addresses
You see, IPv4 addresses were not given out equally to everyone in the world. Some countries and regions got more IPv4 addresses than others, because of historical and technical reasons.
In the beginning, IPv4 addresses were given out by an organization called IANA, which stands for Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. IANA was responsible for managing and coordinating all the IP addresses in the world.
IANA gave out IPv4 addresses based on requests from organizations that wanted to connect their networks to the Internet. However, this system had some flaws:
It was wasteful: Many organizations got more IPv4 addresses than they needed or used
It was rigid: It did not allow for dividing or combining IP addresses easily
It was unfair: It favored early adopters who got large blocks of IP addresses
As a result, by the early 1990s, it became clear that IPv4 address space was running out.
The New System of CIDR
To solve this problem, a new system called CIDR was introduced in 1993. CIDR stands for Classless Inter-Domain Routing. It’s a system that allows for more flexibility and efficiency in using IP addresses.
Instead of using fixed categories of IP addresses, CIDR uses a notation that shows how many bits are used for identifying networks and devices. For example,
192.168.0.1/24 means that the first 24 bits (or three numbers) are used for identifying networks and the remaining eight bits (or one number) are used for identifying devices.
CIDR also changed how IP addresses were given out. Instead of giving out IP addresses directly to organizations, IANA delegated large blocks of IP addresses to regional organizations called RIRs, which stand for Regional Internet Registries.
There are five RIRs in the world:
- AFRINIC for Africa
- ARIN for North America
- APNIC for Asia-Pacific
- LACNIC for Latin America and the Caribbean
- RIPE NCC for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia
Each RIR has its own policies and procedures for giving out IP addresses within its region. They give out smaller blocks of IP addresses to local organizations called LIRs, which stand for Local Internet Registries. They then assign them to end users such as individuals or businesses.
CIDR helped slow down the rate of IPv4 address consumption by making better use of available address space and reducing fragmentation. However, it did not solve the underlying problem: There were still more devices than IP addresses.
The Current Situation of IPv4
As of December 2021, all five RIRs have run out of new blocks of IPv4 address space. This means that they can no longer give out new blocks of IPv4 addresses to LIRs or end users.
The Future of IPv6
IPv6 is the next generation of IP that was designed to overcome the limitations of IPv4. It uses 128 bits for address space, allowing for 3.4×10^38 possible IP addresses. That’s enough to assign a unique IP address to every atom on Earth!
However, IPv6 adoption has been slow and uneven across the world. Some of the reasons for this are:
- Lack of awareness: Many organizations and users are not aware of the benefits or urgency of IPv6
- Cost and complexity: Transitioning to IPv6 requires investment in hardware, software and training
- Compatibility issues: Some legacy devices and applications do not support or interoperate with IPv6
- Incentive gap: Some organizations do not see a clear business case or return on investment for IPv6
As of March 2022, according to Google, the global IPv6 adoption rate is around 34%, but it varies significantly by country and region.
We have seen how the history of IPv4 address distribution has been uneven and unfair, leaving some regions with more addresses than they need and others with less. This has created a problem of IPv4 exhaustion and a market for IPv4 address transfers. However, these solutions are not sustainable or efficient for the future of the Internet. That’s why IPv4DAO creates a first-ever decentralized pool of IPv4 addresses, powered by blockchain technology and smart contracts. IPv4DAO enables a democratic and transparent way for the community to decide how to use the pool. IPv4DAO aims to make IPv4 address allocation more fair and efficient by prioritizing projects that have a bigger impact on Internet development and make the Internet more decentralized. IPv4DAO also shares resources from its pool to help projects that cannot afford to own IP subnets or need them for research purposes. By doing so, IPv4DAO hopes to contribute to a more inclusive and innovative Internet for everyone.
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