We tend to think of the Internet as an endless abyss, with an unlimited amount of information and an unlimited amount of users. We are quickly learning that this is not the case when confronted with the current news on IPv4 addresses, or the lack thereof. Simply put, the Internet is running out of room in its current form. So what does this mean for the Internet as a whole? It is important to understand what IPv4 is and how we are working to keep entry to the Internet open.
IPv4 refers to the IP addresses that are unique to each individual Internet user. The IP address system has been used for years, and is generally recognized by people when they see the number format of 00.00.000.000. Without these IP addresses, our computers would be unable to send and receive data over the Internet. Simply put, there are only so many IP addresses that can be handed out to new Internet users. The world has officially allocated all of the IPv4 addresses to various world systems. While there are millions of IPv4 addresses that have yet to be handed out, the last of the addresses has been distributed evenly between world carriers. Once those are handed out, the world will run out of IP addresses.
The Internet has prepared for this specific issue, however, introducing the IPv6 system. This system is going to eventually replace the IPv4 system once all of the addresses have been handed out. The IPv6 system is going to allow for a wider variety of numerical addresses, helping to keep new users connected to the Internet for years to come.
The current IPv4 system was known as a 32 bit system. This means that the system, after running through all possible numerical values, could support nearly 4.3 billion Internet users. By comparison, the new IPv6 system is a 128 bit system. This is going to allow for a much larger database of numbers to choose from – 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (3.4 x 10^38) different IP addresses.
If IPv6 name will replace IPv4, what happened to IPv5? IPv5 name previously used for Internet Streaming Protocol. For this reason IPv6 name used. IPv4 and IPv6 will communucate tunnelling one protocol within the other. The two protocols don’t interoperate. Also NAT technology will become obsolute with IPv6, because there will be no need to network address translation since every device will have a unique IP address.
So what does this mean for today’s Internet? Not much. The Internet has been preparing for the coming transition, and most computer operating systems are already equipped to handle the IPv6 changeover. There is some slight worry about routers and servers, as they are not created to be able to handle this new IP address system. More information will be available about the issues that will be faced as we come closer to the time for the switch.