Having successfully implemented its plan to expand the list of generic top-level domains (beginning Jan 12th, anyone with $185,000 burning a hole in their pocket can apply to create the .spork gTLD), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has now announced a plan to similarly expand the IPv4 address system.

IPv4 uses 32-bit (four-byte) addresses, such as 209.240.94.1, which limits the network to approximately 4 billion unique addresses. As the Internet has grown, this address space has been progressively consumed, to the point where there are almost no IPv4 addresses left to be assigned.

To resolve this, ICANN has proposed that new network identifiers (the highest byte of an IP address) be created and distributed to the regional registries. Where the current address space ends at 255.255.255.255, this proposal would open up higher networks and addresses such as 256.0.0.1, 403.0.0.1, and 511.0.0.1 for immediate use. This would effectively double the current address space and put off address exhaustion for at least another year.

Eventually, non-numeric networks such as apple.0.0.1 might even be possible, or CIDR blocks such as apple.iigs.0.0/16.

ICANN intends to push aggressively for the plan, despite early criticism from network providers that its bogus, poop-headed, and unworkable. Further, Chrysler has already threatened a trademark lawsuit unless the entire 300 network is handed over to it. There is some concern that if the Chrysler suit is successful, it could prompt a similar suit from Ferrari which would decimate the new address space.

If the proposal is approved by ICANN directors, the new networks and addresses would become available on April 1st of next year.