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The Second Internet


1.2 – An Analogy: the Amazing Growing Telephone Number
When I was very young, my family’s telephone had a 5 digit phone number (5-4573). As the number of
phones (and hence unique phone numbers within my geographic region) grew, the telephone company
had to increase the length of everyone’s phone number. Our number became 385-4573. This was
enough to give everyone in my area a unique number, and we could ask the nice long distance operator
to connect us to people in other areas when we wanted to talk with them. When the telcos introduced
the miracle of Direct Distance Dialing, our phone number grew to 10 digits: (904) 385-4573. In theory,
this could provide unique numbers to 1010 (10 billion) customers. In practice some digit patterns cannot
be used, so it is somewhat less than that, and today many people have multiple phone numbers
(landline, cell phone, fax, modem, VoIP, etc). Estimates are that the current supply of 10 digit numbers
will last U.S. subscribers at least 50 more years. Increases in the length of phone numbers may be an
inconvenience to end users (and publishers of phone books), but the tricky problems are mostly in the
big phone switches. Phone number lengths have been changed several times without leading to the
collapse of civilization.
One popular estimate (from NetCore) is that the IP addresses for the First Internet will be all gone,
history, used up by September 16, 2011 (as estimated on February 15, 2010, subject to many revisions
before that last address is assigned, but probably to earlier dates, not later ones). That is the date that
the IANA will tell Regional Internet Registries like ARIN, RIPE and APNIC, that there are no more to
replenish their supplies. The RIRs will likely have enough on hand to last another six months at most. I
have personally joined APNIC as a member and reserved a “/22” block of IPv4 addresses (a little over
1000 of the precious, and increasingly scarce addresses for the First Internet). These will cost me about
1000 USD per year, but I will be able to continue running my companies and other activities for many
years to come. You can think of this as staking out some of the last remaining lots in a virtual Oklahoma
Land Rush. I am also doing this in order to obtain my very own “/32” block of the shiny new IPv6
addresses. You can think of this as getting an enormous spread of prime real estate in the virtual New
World of the Second Internet. Anyone that wants to today can do the same thing (at least for a little
while longer). I understand what’s coming, and I know what I’ll be able to build on that prime real
estate. I think it’s a hell of a bargain.
1.3 – So Just What Is It That We Are Running Out Of?
There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about this, as important as it is. Many people
think that “internet addresses” are things like www.ipv6.org. That is not an Internet Address, it is a
symbolic nodename. That is an important part of a URI (Uniform Resource Indicator), which adds things
such as a protocol designator (e.g. http:, mailto: or sip:), possibly a non-standard port number (e.g.
“:8080”) and often a file path (e.g. “/files/index.html”). If you allowed up to 30 characters for a
nodename (the preceding example being 14 characters long) and allowed any alpha or numeric
character and the hyphen (a-z and 0-9 and “-“), which are all legal in Internet nodenames, this would
give a total of 37 possible characters in each position. That means there are 3730 (1.11 x 1047) possible
nodenames, although most of them would be really obscure and hard to remember, like
poas5jdpof343jijio.iuhiu3hu4ifer.com. That’s a lot of names. There is still a staggering number of names
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