For years now, tech experts have been warning that the Internet is eventually going to "run out." At first that sounds silly. How can you run out of something that's digital? Just throw a few more servers in there and make the Internet bigger.
Unfortunately, adding more servers isn't the problem; it's getting those servers to talk to other servers. That's because every gadget that runs or connects to the Internet needs a unique number to identify itself.
This number is called the IP, or Internet Protocol address. The current IP addresses standard is Internet Protocol version 4 or IPv4. An IPv4 address looks something like this: "188.8.131.52." You usually don't see IP addresses, thanks to DNS servers. Learn how a custom DNS server can help keep your computer safe.
IPv4 allows for 32-bit IP addresses. That provides roughly 4.3 billion address combinations. Back when the Internet was first developed, that seemed like more than enough addresses. The Internet was never expected to grow this big.
Now there are almost 2 billion computers online and growing. And billions of mobile gadgets are coming into use, not to mention every other Internet connected device from wireless printers to home thermostats, door lock and more. Each one needs its own IP address.
Europe and Asia have already run out of their assigned IP addresses, and America only has 3.4 million left. Internet experts expect those to run out this summer.