Europe Moving Toward "Next Generation" IP System

Europe is getting on the bandwagon for Internet Protocol version 6 -- the so-called "next generation" of internet addresses.

The European Commission announced plans this week to migrate a quarter of all users over to IPv6 by the year 2010. The current system, which we've been using since the mid-80s, is simply running out of room, they say.

They're not the first ones to express concern. Google VP Vinton Cerf recently relayed a message to an IPv6 summit in the Philippines, saying we are nearing the end of addresses on IPv4, the system still in place today. Most estimates put only about 16 percent of the original number of IP addresses as being still available. That amounts to about 700 million.

So far, only a few countries have gotten on-board with the idea. Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan are all ready for the switch, and parts of the Philippines are prepared as well.

The idea of IPv6 is often compared to giving a unique "phone number" to every device that connects to the net. Proponents say it'd make a virtually unlimited number of addresses available. The issue, of course, is making sure all hardware and software are ready to support the change.

The U.S. has apparently made IPv6 a requirement for government-contracted web services but has not made any other firm moves toward the new technology.