When the internet began to go mainstream, no one imagined there would ever be a shortage of IP addresses. That was before your toaster wanted to use the internet to check how long it needs to cook bread for an English breakfast. The fact is, IP addresses ran out long before your toaster tried to get one. When you hear about IP addresses running out, you’re hearing about them running out in IPv4. The solution is already here; it’s called IPv6. This might confuse you as to what the difference is between IPv4 and IPv6, what are you using, and do you need to convert?
IPv4 And IPv6
IPv4 and IPv6 both refer to IP address standards that define how an IP address is allocated and what it will be. The numbers i.e., 4 and 6, indicate the version number. There are a few basic differences between IPv4 and IPv6 but they are both IP addresses. The differences are as follows;
- IPv4 is the older version that’s run out of IP addresses to allocateand IPv6 is the new version that has new IP addresses for your desktop, and your toaster.
- IPv4 has IP addresses that are 32-bit numerical values written in the decimal system while IPv6 has 128-bits written in the hexadecimal system.
What Are You Using?
IPv6 has been out a long time. IPv4 allocated all the IP addresses it had to allocate back in 2012 and since then, there’s been a push to upgrade to IPv6. It’s 2018 and a good deal of devices are still on IPv4 which begs the question, How? If IPv4 ran out of new addresses, how are all the new iPhones and iPads accessing the internet?
Right now, routers are what are keeping things running. Your router is the device that gets an IP address, and the devices that connect to the router get internal addresses. The router uses the internal IP addresses to make sure that the traffic is routed to the right device. Even if you have the latest iPad, the newest Macbook, the best PC there is, or the latest Surface tablet, you’re probably still using IPv4. These devices can support IPv6 but it’s not the devices that are the problem. It’s the larger infrastructure that’s the problem.
There’s also the unfortunate fact that while all the IP addresses available under IPv4 have been allocated, not all of them are in use at the moment. A good number of them are still unused which means the move to IPv6 will be delayed further.
Migrating To IPv6
Migrating to IPv6 isn’t easy. The need to migrate is genuine but migrating to IPv6 costs money on all fronts; hardware and software. Your ISP needs to upgrade its infrastructure to support IPv6. After that comes the router that needs to be upgraded and not many people buy their own router. Most just go with the router that their ISP provides so that means that when ISPs upgrade their network to support IPv6, they will also have to include routers in that bill.
Since things are still up and running, there isn’t anything that will create an urgency to add support for IPv6. The standard is there and so is the technology but there is little to compel ISPs to move to the new standard. Current router technology is making IPv4 work for a vast number of devices. If the push ever comes, it might have to be through legislation or to mitigate a serious security risk.
IPv6 Is Better
The biggest benefit of using IPv6 is that all devices can connect directly to the internet. Right now, devices connect via a router and they don’t have their own IP addresses. If you have to identify a device on a network, you’ll use its MAC address. This also tends to slow things down. Your router’s capabilities also play a role in how quickly your web requests are answered. When devices are able to connect directly to the internet, browsing will be faster. That doesn’t mean you won’t need a router, you will. Your router will just be able to work more efficiently.
IPv6 is also more secure. It encrypts traffic, and ensures packet integrity. This allows it to give you VPN-like security. That doesn’t mean VPNs will be a thing of the past. You will still use them to hide your activity from your ISP but even without them, your traffic will be more secure on IPv6 than it was on IPv4.