The European Commission has set a target to get at least a quarter of EU businesses, public authorities and households to use the next-generation of internet protocols (IPv6) by 2010, which would provide an almost unlimited number of web addresses. More and more people are surfing the net these days, using a multiple array of devices each of which require a web or Internet Protocol (IP) address. As a result of this surge in demand, the internet is fast running out of addresses. In the early days of the internet, developers had no idea how big it would become. They gave each address a 32-bit number, meaning that the total number of available addresses worked out at about four billion (2 to the power of 32). This version of IP address is known as IPv4. The global distribution of available IP addresses has been extremely unbalanced, with 74% going to North American organisations, with two universities (Stanford and MIT) each having more than China. It is now estimated that of the four billion addresses available, only 700 million remain free for new connections. If nothing is done, it is estimated that the internet could run out of space by as early as 2011. Instead of a 32-bit scheme as used with the IPv4 protocol, IPv6 uses a128-bit scheme which provides an unlimited number of addresses (as much as 340 undecillion addresses). This is why the Commission is calling on businesses, public authorities and households to move from using the IPv4 protocol to IPv6. Staying with the old system is not an option, says the Commission, if Europe wants to take advantage of the latest internet technology. By 2010, a quarter these stakeholders should be making use of IPv6. 'IPv6 provides more addresses in cyberspace than there are grains of sand on the world's beaches,' Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. 'If Europeans are to use the latest internet devices such as smart tags in shops, factories and airports, intelligent heating and lighting systems that save energy, and in-car networks and navigation systems, then we already face a thousand-fold increase in demand for IP addresses.' To prepare the way, the Commission has already invested some € 90 million on IPv6 research, funding more than 30 projects under the EU's research framework programmes. In 2002, it also launched an action plan to prepare for the migration to IPv6. In its latest communication, the Commission promises to work with Member States to enable IPv6 on public sector websites and eGovernment services. They will also be encouraged to generate demand for IPv6 through their public procurement procedures. For its part, the Commission will make its websites IPv6 accessible by 2010. The Commission also wants to see at least the top 100 European websites moving to IPv6. Content and service providers will therefore be expected to offer IPv6 accessible products by 2010. Industry too will have to embrace IPv6 as their primary platform for developing applications and appliances, such as sensors and cameras. To help them do so, funds will be made available under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) for testing and validating protocol-related applications. Funds will also be made available to help industry on standardisation to improve the operability of networks. To ensure wide deployment of IPv6, the Commission will organise targeted awareness campaigns and will fund special support actions under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to further disseminated information on deployment.