Referring to the exhaustion of available IPv4 addresses as an “extinction” or an “apocalypse” has always seemed a wee bit melodramatic — it doesn’t mean the Internet will shut down until the IPv6 switchover is complete, only that a secondary market in IPv4 addresses will be created, similar to that which already exists in domain names. Microsoft nicely illustrated that latter point while (unintentionally?) giving a nod to the former in a recently announced transaction, when it shelled out $7.5 million for 666,624 IPv4 addresses from a bankrupt networking company called Nortel Networks.
Microsoft not only bought a quantity of IPv4 addresses roughly equivalent to 1,000 times the Number of the Beast; at $11.25 per address, it also paid more than the average market rate for a .com address, which is about $10 per.
According to Domain Incite, this is “the first publicly disclosed sale of an IP address block since ICANN officially announced the depletion of IANA’s free pool of IPv4 blocks last month.”
While it seems logical and inevitable for IPv4 addresses to become subject to the market laws of supply and demand now that they are a scarce resource, ICANN, which regulates Internet protocol addresses, officially looks down on this sort of so-called “grey market” transaction in IP addresses. It anticipates that this sort of thing won’t happen too often in the future, but this sale could set a major precedent.