IPv4 addresses are comprised of a 32-bit value. This system is what the majority of the internet has been using for Internet Protocol (IP). A standard IPv4 address looks like this:
This 32-bit integer system allows for a possible combination of up to 4,294,967,296 (232) addresses. Yes, that’s a lot of addresses but we have run out of them, in fact we ran out of them in early 2011. Keep in mind that there are over 20 billion active devices connected to the internet.
Every single device that connects to the internet is assigned an IP address. As we mentioned earlier, there are billions of devices out there and that number keeps getting higher every day. The internet needs to be able to keep up with that incredible pace, but it can’t. IPv4 has already run out of addresses and all we can do with IPv4 addresses now is reclaim them and re-assign them.
Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the next step forward in internet address assignment. IPv6 uses a 128-bit address system and that means a possible combination of up to 3.4×1038 addresses, yes, that’s 340 trillion trillion trillion! Clearly this is the format we wan’t to be using in a world that’s constantly adding more and more devices to the internet.
A common address for IPv6 is formatted like this:
What are some other benefits that IPv6 has?
IPv6 is far more efficient when it comes to sending data and it even offers up auto configuration capabilities that don’t exist with IPv4. The new protocol is also much more secure and offers true end-to-end connectivity, which eliminates the need for Network Address Translation (NAT). NAT helped reduce problems with the IPv4 model as it began to run out of addresses by allowing you to hide multiple private IP addresses behind one IP address. Without it, we would have had a lot more trouble with IPv4 in the past.
So when do we switch and how long will it take?
Well the transition to IPv6 is going to take quite a while but it has already begun. The world IPv6 Launch occurred on June 6, 2012 and we continue to make progress as internet providers and websites make the change.
Am I on IPv6 Already?
Chances are that you aren’t but if you want to be sure, Google can help you figure that out by heading here.