Even though widespread use of the Internet is a a recent phenomenon, its technical foundations have been in place for some time. Today's Internet protocol was introduced in 1981. Although the underlying standard is well thought out and forward-looking, it is showing signs of age. The explosive growth of the Internet over the past few years has thrown up a problem relating to the available address space of IPv4 — 32-bit addresses allow a maximum of 232 hosts to be addressed (if subnetting and the like are ignored). Although earlier thought to be inexhaustible, this address space will no longer be sufficient in the foreseeable future because more and more devices — ranging from PDAs and laser printers to coffee machines and refrigerators — require IP addresses.

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