With the current IP system, IPv4, the internet is running out of room. So tomorrow, most major internet companies and ISPs, including Google, Yahoo, Cisco, Comcast and et cetera will be permanently switching over to IPv6. What does this mean for you? Probably nothing, since your chances of encountering problems is incredibly slim. What it means for everyone is that there will be lots more IP addresses to go around for some time.
“IPv6 is being enabled and kept on by more than 1,500 Web sites and ISPs in 22 countries,” said Arbor Networks, a company that monitors global Internet traffic closely.
Internet Protocol version 6 has one big improvement over the prevailing IPv4 standard it’s designed to supplant: room to grow. However, moving to IPv6 isn’t simple, which is why many organizations on the Internet have banded together for Wednesday’s World IPv6 Launch event overseen by a standards and advocacy group called the Internet Society.
Today, IPv4 is used to describe the network address to almost all smartphones, PCs, servers, and Internet-enabled refrigerators so that other devices can exchange data. For example, your computer needs to know the IP address of CNET News to read this story, and CNET’s server needs to know your computer’s IP address to send the Web page information to it.
IPv4, though, offers only 4.3 billion addresses (2 to the 32nd power, or 4,294,967,296, to be precise). That may sound like a lot, but there are ever more devices to connect to the Internet, and many of the IPv4 addresses are inaccessibly squirreled away by organizations that got large tracts of them earlier in the history of the Internet.
The upshot is that the problem called IPv4 address exhaustion is real: the pipeline of new ones is emptying out. That’s a problem for businesses that want to set up new Internet services or for carriers wanting to sell another few million smartphones.
IPv6 to the rescue! It offers 340 undecillion addresses (2 to the 128th power, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456, to be precise).
There’s only one problem: Upgrading the Internet to IPv6 — and that means the entire Internet — is expensive, requires a lot of work, and is something most of the computing industry has been putting off until absolutely necessary. There are still procrastinators, but its time now has come.
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