The previous two columns in this series—The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Class of 2011—discussed the Cloud and Recreational Hacking and what they mean for corporate counsel. This column looks at the third of the Horsemen: IPv6, the new protocol for the Internet that is rolling out over the next few months.

The Internet—originally known as ARPANET, among other configurations—was developed by geniuses like Jon Postel, Vint Cerf, Lawrence Roberts, and others who made the technology advances that laid the groundwork and the backbone for the worldwide web as we know it today. I was honored to have met Postel and Cerf in the 1990s when I participated in hearings before the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva. The debates then centered on access and growth. One topic that was never discussed (or if it was, only in passing) was whether the Internet would ever run out of numbers – the unique identifiers known as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. After all, the key to the Internet’s design was that it was scalable and could grow without foreseeable limitations. At least that was the plan.

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