IPv6: Cheat Sheet

Summary:Updated: How the online community is preparing for the next stage of the internet's development...

Updated: How the online community is preparing for the next stage of the internet's development...

I love a car with a nice V6 under the bonnet...
Good for you, but IPv6 has nothing to do with cars. It actually stands for Internet Protocol version 6, the name for the next-generation IP addressing system that will eventually replace the IPv4 standard.

What's that all about then?
Well, the internet works by moving small packets of data around the network as defined by an international communications protocol - the internet protocol.

Each device connected to the internet has an IP address. The packets of data contain the IP addresses of the devices they are being sent from and to, which is how they end up in the right place.

Businessman

With more and more devices being connected to the internet, the IP address system is becoming depletedPhoto: Shutterstock

So why do we need IPv6?
The first commercial internet protocol, IPv4, was introduced in 1981 and is the foundation of the vast majority of internet communications. However, IPv4 was designed before it became clear how much the internet would grow in the following years.

With a huge increase in the number of devices connected to the internet, the number of possible IPv4 IP addresses - 4.3 billion - will soon become inadequate to serve them all.

How does IPv6 help?
The way the new-generation IPv6 IP addresses work means there is a huge increase in the number of combinations of addresses possible compared with IPv4.

Developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force and first defined in the RFC 2460 internet standard document in 1998, IPv6 uses addresses with 128 characters compared with IPv4's 32-bit addressing system.

This extra character length allows IPv6 to produce 340 undecillion - that's 34,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 - IP addresses. Or, to put it another way, several billion addresses for each person on earth.

The huge number of IPv6 addresses will be virtually inexhaustible in the near future, so the huge growth in internet-connected devices can be sustained and catered for.

So are we going to run out of IP addresses next week?
Not exactly, although a critical stage was recently reached when the final batch of IPv4 addresses were allocated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) to...

Topics: Networking

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