The last five batches, or "blocks," each with 16.8 million addresses, will be given out Thursday to regional registries, two anonymous, but informed sources told Peter Svensson, AP technology writer. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority has called a press conference in Miami on Thursday.
Internet Protocol version 4, the current Internet address system, allows a theoretical maximum of 4.3 billion addresses at one time, and has been in place since the 1980s.
Websites and service providers have been experimenting with a new technology that allows for many more addresses — an infinite number, for all practical purposes.
But many have been slow to do so because of a lack of immediate benefits. The exhaustion of IP addresses at the top level puts pressure on them to move more quickly.
A new system, which allows a huge number of addresses — in practice, an indefinite number — is called Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6.
Only about 2 percent of websites support it. However, many of those are the most-visited sites on the Internet, including Google and Facebook. Smaller sites are expected to scramble for IPv6 addresses now.
The AP further reports:
As Internet service providers run out of IPv4 addresses, they'll have to give subscribers IPv6 addresses.
The challenge lies in connecting them to websites that have only IPv4 addresses.
In essence, IPv4 and IPv6 are different "languages." Several "translation" technologies are available, but they haven't been tested on a large scale, Curran said.
That could lead to problems reaching some websites, or slow surfing.
"We're estimating how these boxes will work, but we haven't seen one deployed with tens of thousands of customers on it yet," John Curran said. Curran is CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, or ARIN, one of five regional groups that dole out such addresses. ARIN covers the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.
The "end game" — the distribution of the last five blocks — was triggered by the distribution of two of the last seven blocks on Tuesday.
They went to the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, the regional registry for East Asia (including India), Australia and the Pacific islands.