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Europe reaches limit for old Internet addresses

The IPv4 Internet addresses are running low, prompting a switch to the new IPv6.

That's it, the Internet is full. In Europe anyway. And only for old-style web addresses.

Us Europeans have almost exhausted the stock of IPv4 Internet addresses, and so strict wartime-style rationing has started, the BBC reports. Starting from now, companies can only make one application for IPv4 addresses.

"The day has finally come," said Axel Pawlik, managing director of Ripe NCC, that dishes out Internet addresses to European ISPs and other companies. "When the Internet was first designed it seemed highly unlikely that IP address space would ever be an issue," he added, according to The Telegraph.

"However, the limitations of the pool of IPv4 address space became clear over time, and in the last few years we have been monitoring supplies closely, preparing ourselves and all stakeholders for the next stage of the Internet."

IPv4 will be succeeded by IPv6, which will offer around 340 trillion, trillion, trillion web addresses. That should hopefully keep us in websites for a while yet.

IPv4 was originally conceived in the 1960s and standardised in 1981. It allowed for more than 4.2 billion addresses, which seemed a lot at the time. They obviously didn't factor in how popular lolcats would be.

Yesterday, Ripe NCC got down to its last 16 million IPv4 addresses. That might seem a lot, but not when you consider it was giving out just shy of four million addresses every 10 days.

This changeover shouldn't make any difference to the average web surfer, but ISPs and businesses will have to invest in new equipment, which could mean higher fees for us, in some cases.

And if companies dawdle over IPv6, it could mean some web pages aren't viewable. That would be a major pain if you've just shelled out £500 on an iPhone 5.

So companies take heed: if you're planning some huge web venture, IPv6 is the way to go.