The Real Beauty of the Market Approach

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2008-07-22 Print this article Print


The real beauty of a market approach is that it could accelerate IPv6 adoption; in fact, I would expect it to. The scarcer IPv4 addresses are, the more expensive they will become. The more expensive they are, the greater the incentive to be done with the problem altogether and pay the prices to move to IPv6. If the price isn't so high that users feel it's worth adopting IPv6, then maybe we can get along with a market-limited pool, but I doubt it. I think a market will help enterprises and ISPs see the value of adopting IPv6.

There is a significant issue of equity between the different world regions. For many years addresses have been allocated through the RIRs, which have a lot of autonomy. But the Internet was dominated by the United States for so long that a huge percentage of the addresses are here. Therefore, it's argued, the market should allow for transfers between the regions, and in principle I agree, although I've been told it creates technical problems.

There are lots of problems with setting up such a market. For instance, the rules in the different RIRs are different for who can buy an address block, how to transfer them, what the fees are and so on. It's reasonable for there to be rules and fees, but they will have to be uniform or at least consistent for a market to function well. This is the biggest reason to doubt a market will develop, since the RIRs will, out of necessity, lose autonomy in a market solution. They will fight it.

I have to admit I'm the sort who's inclined toward market solutions anyway, so a consensus that such is the best approach toward the impending IP address crisis strokes me in the right way. Maybe I'm too enamored of it to be objective. But I've read a lot and written some myself on this subject, and I've never heard any solution that sounded remotely practical that didn't involve a market. Nothing else makes sense.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack.


Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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