IPv4 exhaustion unrelated to ICANN’s new TLD rule

A huge error is in many articles discussing ICANN nascent TLD rules. Here’s a quote from PC Magazine, which should know better:

The additional domains will also probably accelerate the shift to IPv6, an expanded IP addressing scheme that will provide roughly 3.4×10E38 IP addresses, or ten billion billion billion times more than those provided by IPv4, the current scheme. (source)

In fact, there is no direct relationship between IP addresses–abstract numbers–and domain names–the human-friendly, text-based names.

IP is the addressing system of the internet. Every internet-enabled device talks from its own unique IP address to the unique IP address of another machine. It’s just like when you send a postal letter, you sent it “from” your house’s own unique address, the return address on the letter, to the unique address of the recipient.

When you type a web site name in a web browser, such as www.smu.edu, the browser looks up the web site’s IP address. The browser then “talks” to that IP address.

It’s similar to correlating a person to his cell phone number. If I want to call John Smith, I can’t dial “John Smith” in my phone. I have to look up and dial his phone number instead. During the call, I know I’m talking to John Smith, but the phone is simply communicating with an abstract phone number.

IPv4 is the current IP addressing scheme. The is, under the most dire predictions, all available IPv4 addresses will be used up in a few years. In that event, no new devices can use the internet.

An analogy: Suppose a road is very long, and road’s houses have three digit addresses: 001 to 999. With that scheme, only 999 houses can be on the road. If the address changes to 6 digits, the road could allow 999,999 houses because addresses range from 000,001 to 999,999.

IPv6 addresses are like adding those additional digits. In fact, it has so many digits that each person could have fifty octillion (50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) IP addresses before that system becomes exhausted.

(Truth be told, the predictions of IPv4’s collapse are grossly exaggerated. Simple workarounds are already available that could allow IPv4 to work fine for a long time. And because of the way it assigns IP addresses, IPv6 in fact cannot deliver nearly the number of addresses advertised; as is the case with IPv4, but for different reasons, there will be significant numbers of unusable addresses. But it is true that IPv6 really does have several orders of magnitude more addresses than IPv4, and IPv6 also has several convincing technological advantages that justify its use.)

Back to the point of this article: the IP systems’s current address space crunch is a technical artifact of the IP system. It has no relationship whatsoever to the domain name system. Domain names are merely pointers to certain IP addresses. Nothing more, nothing less.

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