Sometimes around 4 a.m. on February 2nd - next Wednesday morning - the very last of the still-available IP addresses under the traditional IPv4 scheme will be allocated.
And then the Internet as it has existed since IPv4 was established in 1977 will, for all intents and purposes, be running on empty.
"Who the hell knew how much address space we needed?" said Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer and father of the World Web Web. At the time Cerf and his colleagues thought that it would be a ridiculously long amount of time (they may have assumed it would not be within their own lifetime) before the Internet would run out of IP numbers. They couldn't have possibly foreseen not only Internet usage in private home but also mobile devices, streaming video and the like. In 1977, 4.3 billion possible IP addresses was a gracious plenty.
The good news is that the "IPocalypse" may not be too bad, since technicians have known about the shortage for quite some time and have been developing the IPv6 protocol: an upgraded system that has 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible addresses.
But the possibility remains: until IPv6 gets full implemented, some rather wonky things might be set to happen within the next several days.
(And I was so hoping to get an iPad soon too... :-P)