Why IPv6? Vint Cerf keeps blaming himself

Impending exhaustion of IPv4 addresses 'my fault,' he says ... regularly

Vince Cerf

Are you struggling with or dreading the thought of IPv6?

If so, Vint Cerf, much-decorated "Father of the Internet," wants you to know that it's OK to blame him. He certainly does so himself. In fact, he does so time and time and time again.

(2011's 25 Geekiest 25th anniversaries)

One of the more recent "It's my fault" confessions came as Cerf addressed an IPv6 workshop conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and he described his 1976 role as DARPA program manager working on the ARPAnet. From a Federal Computer Week story:

One of the decisions his team needed to make was the size of the address space in the packets.

Some researchers wanted a 128-bit space for the binary address, Cerf (recalled) ... But others said, "That's crazy," because it's far larger than necessary, and they suggested a much smaller space. Cerf finally settled on a 32-bit space that was incorporated into IPv4 and provided a respectable 4.3 billion separate addresses.

"It's enough to do an experiment," he said. "The problem is the experiment never ended."

This iteration of the self-deprecating confession made the rounds on various geeky forums and Twitter.

But Cerf, chief Internet evangelist at Google, has long known a good laugh line when he has one. In an Aug. 17 talk at NASA, he said:

This is the amount of IP version 4 address space, about 5% left -- my fault actually. In 1977 I was running the Internet program for the defense department, I had to decide how much address space this Internet thing needs. ... After a year of arguing among the engineers, no one knowing, 32 bits, 3.4 billion terminations, has to be enough for an experiment. The problem is the experiment never ended.

There's video. Here he's speaking to fellow Googlers on April 30 and at about the 18-minute mark says:

And finally, because nobody could make up their minds and I'm sitting there in the Defense Department trying to get this program to move ahead, we haven't built anything, I said,it's 32 bits. That's it. Let's go do something. Here we are. My fault.

And this speech is at the University of Maryland on May 1, 2009 isn't 11 minutes started before he cops the plea.

Now, this is a very important chart, and there will be a final exam on this at 5 o'clock. This picture has only one really important graph on it. It's the thing that's going down. And that is the remaining available IPv4 address space that the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority can hand out to the regional Internet registries. It's going to run out somewhere around 2010 or so. And I blushingly admit it's my fault.

The earliest example I could find using the search engine made famous by Cerf's current employer was this blogger's anecdote from June 2008:

This guy. Co-creator of ARPANET. Was speaking at my workplace last month. ... How many people do you know of who could say light-heartedly:

"There's a problem with the internet, and it's my fault."

+60 HP if any of you nerds out there can tell me what that problem is :)

 Beckster said...

The problem is we are running out of IP addresses. That's why V6 has been developed. ... Hit me with the HP!

I have no idea what HP is but apparently you could earn 60 of them in 2008 by knowing Vint Cerf blames himself for the dwindling supply of IPv4 addresses.

OK, I don't know about the rest of you, but I am of the mind that what's done is done; that 1977 was a long time ago; and Cerf wasn't the only one who failed to foresee that 4.3 billion addresses wouldn't be enough. ... Maybe it's time Vint cuts himself a little slack.

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