This is what happens when the Internet runs out of space: IP addresses could soon become become more expensive than domain names.
As reported by The Register, Microsoft just spent $7.5 million to buy a block of 666,624 IPv4 addresses from Nortel in bankruptcy court. That works out to about $11.25 apiece.
The company outbid four other unnamed firms to get the valuable addresses, which identify unique computers on the Internet, like Web servers.
The last block of IPv4 addresses was issued to registrars earlier this year, which means that companies who want to own many unique Web addresses — including big providers of Internet services like Microsoft, Google, and Apple — will have to buy them on the second market or use awkward workarounds that might lead to slow performance and other problems.
The alternative, IPv6, requires new hardware and software in many places — from Web servers through Internet service providers to your home router — and the transition will be slow.
$11 apiece seems cheap compared with high-profile domain names for common — for instance, colour.com sold for $350,000 earlier this year. But buying a domain name directly from ICANN costs only about $7.50 per year, and a lot of secondhand registrars keep the price under $10 per year.