An IP or an Internet Protocol is a standard that defines how data is sent across the Internet. Every computer or device connected to the Internet has a unique IP address. This number allows different devices to recognize each other and communicate.
We have been using version 4 of Internet—Protocol IPv4—since the start of 1980s. Nobody at the time thought that the Internet would become a phenomenon. Our need for IPv4 addresses have increased ever since. Finally, there has come a point when we are now running out of these addresses.
The reason for this exhaustion is that IPv4 uses 32-bit numbers. This means that there were a total of 2^32 (or approximately 4.29 billion) addresses available. Anybody who understands the scope of the Internet will not have difficulty in realizing that this number would not be enough to cater to all the devices in use today.
A possible and likely solution is to move towards IPv6. This version uses 128-bit number which means we will be having a total of 2^128 addresses. It will take quite a few decades or even more before we are short of them.
However, there are some issues in this transition. First, IP data of one version does not handle data from other version quite well.
For instance, a home computer having an IPv4 address will have difficulty communicating with a server that uses IPv6.
Another significant reason why movement towards IPv6 has been difficult is that there are costs involved for web service providers. The upgrade to IPv6 would mean new hardware equipment, software, networking infrastructure and so on.
Although the change is difficult and may take several years, it must be said that eventually, transition is certain.
What It Would Mean for an Average Internet User
When the transition does take place, it will be business as usual. Most of the modern hardware supports IPv6 so that isn’t going to be a problem. For software, versions of Windows after the XP support IPv6. Mac OS can also handle IPv6 since version 10.2. The iPhones and Android have also supporting features for IPv6.
However, the problem would arise in home networking products. To make any sort of IPv6 communication possible, an internet user must have a DSL modem or router that is compatible with IPv6. Rectifying this would require some costs and efforts as the ISPs normally do not provide IPv6 support features.
Will the Sky Fall?
Contrary to what you might have heard regarding the IPv6 transition, it should be noted that the sky wouldn’t fall. To make the change smooth, there are strategies such as translation, tunneling etc. that can prove to be helpful.
However, this does not mean that there will not be any negative impact on the network performance. One likely temporary solution is dual-stack, meaning both IPv4 and IPv6 co-exist until the transition is complete.
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