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Sssh - it's the new internet protocol

by Giles Turnbull -- 2000/08/21

Work is progressing on building a new 128-bit protocol for internet addresses, according to an article by Dan Gillmor. But to work well, the big changeover should be completely invisible to most people, he says.

Addresses at the moment are 32 bits long, giving a maximum number of just over 4 billion, he points out. Given the huge explosion in internet-connected devices, this is not going to be enough.

What's most important, though, is that the vast majority of people don't notice the changeover. That is the biggest challenge to the Internet Society.

Gilmour says:

The experts will be thrilled if the change is "so boring that nobody notices."

This is important for the internet's tarnished image in the traditional media. The newspapers love filling their pages with stories about the net, because it's easy material to get and it is of interest to a lot of readers.

But they enjoy far more the stories of internet failure. When the report into President Clinton's antics with Monica Lewinsky was published online, a lot of coverage centered on how most people couldn't get hold of it because the site was overloaded.

The media loves failure on the net: think of the collapse of boo.com and the excess traffic at the Big Brother site.

The best news for net users regarding the addresses problem will be no news at all. If we can keep things business as usual, everyone - users, investors, developers - will be better off.