Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Got Any Old IP Addresses? Need to Raise Cash? You May Be in Luck

Only a select few concerned with the most arcane details of the Internet’s internal plumbing were concerned when the world ran out of IPv4 addresses. These, of course, are the Internet Protocol addresses that coincide with domain names: 72.233.2.53, for example, is ours.

The fact that they’re now rare makes them valuable. In fact, Microsoft has just paid $7.5 million to buy some 666,000 addresses from the assets of the bankrupt Canadian networking company Nortel.

You may remember that the world ran out of these addresses last month when the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority handed out the last batch of the 4.5 billion or so addresses under its control. Who knew the Internet would ever need so many?

A new numbering system called IP version 6 or IPv6 is coming soon with lots more room for addresses. The theoretical number of addresses that should be available is 340 undecillion. (Yes that’s a real number, a 340 followed by 36 zeros.) That ought to be plenty of space. The problem is that it’s taking forever to get it up and running.

But in the meantime, the world is still relying upon the old-school IPv4 addresses and they’re scarce, hence valuable. Microsoft paid $11.25 each for these addresses, and it stands to reason that there are scores of companies and entities out there with blocks of addresses that are in various states of disuse. Something tells me this isn’t the last deal of this kind.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik