by Roby LaPorte
Help! Is the information highway in trouble?
In the mid 1980s, when the Internet was first released to the public from the military (they had their reasons), very few really knew how big it would become. Back then there were very limited resources on the web, but there was CompuServ and Prodigy. CompuServe (also known as CIS), founded in 1969, was the first major commercial online service in the United States. It dominated the internet in the ’80s and was the high roller ‘til the mid-‘90s. They charged viewers by the hour at that point and introduced commercialism to the web. Today it still exists, but it is now owned by AOL who actually began the monthly subscription Internet plan.
Prodigy was one of the first online services which offered its subscribers access to a large range of networked services, like news, weather, shopping, your local library, travel and a variety of other features. Of course, there wasn’t a whole lot to it, and you had to access it by way of your telephone service. The roots of Prodigy go back to the early ‘80s when CBS and telecommunications giant AT&T formed a joint venture named Venture One.
These were slow but innovative introductions of the Internet to the masses with plenty of room for growth. And, it certainly did get our attention!
Today the latest count has the Internet at 70 million active websites with approximately 10 billion web pages. Of course, these are only guess-timates as there isn’t any one main server out there distributing all the websites out to the world, but still and all, that is a huge amount of data and bandwidth. Are we going to run out of space for all this information? No, storage and bandwidth is not the problem … yet.
But, we are running out of IP addresses. Today we are using version 4 Internet Protocol (IPv4) which has attached an IP address not only to your home or business computer and the hordes of websites out there, but from all the cell phones to PDF’s and everything in between. It is reported that we are set to run out of IPv4 addresses in just a couple of years from now.
So along comes IPv6, which has improved nicely on IPv4 and is set to expand the Internet as the needs expand. IPv6 will allow greater security, longer domain names and IP address. According to Wikipedia, IPv6 address space is extremely large. It states that more than “ten billion, billion, billion” times as many addresses as IPv4 will be supported, and it will be done with addresses in IPv6, 128 bits long, versus 32 bits in IPv4.
This is all extremely needed. The Internet grows and grows by the minute. Also, we are now moving into the brave new world of sensor reporting of many types. An example of this is the navigational service we enjoy in our automobiles. These devises are improving vastly by providing traffic and weather conditions to the nav-system in your car via Internet protocol and GPS. Of course, that means even more addresses will be needed. Luckily, IPv6 is set for deployment by 2010, just in time before we run out of address within IPv4.
As usual, the information highway is “on the improve”, so we can all relax and enjoy the magic that the future of the Internet promises to bring us. b