Nothing is forever on the internet; everything changes every day, and if you don’t keep up, you will be left behind. At the same time, most people assume that the internet and all the hardware that makes it up will never go away. Although everything changes on the internet, people assume that the internet itself will be online forever.
Yet, there are several problems on the horizon that threaten the internet’s ability to function. Besides the net neutrality and digital literacy issues that have started to get people’s attention, there are hardware issues. For example, people are only just starting to wonder, “what is IPv6?”
There are only a limited number of devices that can connect to the internet. Although that limit is well into the billions, there are billions of devices that can connect to the internet online. We are rapidly approaching the limit of devices the internet can support.
Luckily, IPv6 can stop that from ever becoming a problem. Keep reading below to learn about IPv6 and how to help save the internet from a problem you probably don’t even realize exists.
IP Addresses are Fundamental to the Internet
Whenever a device connects to the internet, it is automatically assigned an IP address. These act like fingerprints for devices; servers treat a computer’s IP address like a person’s name. It’s how it identifies the device, and IP addresses allow servers to deliver the right content to the right devices.
Currently, most devices are assigned a 32-bit addressing scheme. This means that most IP addresses look like this:
The address is divided into four different parts, each reflecting a different part of the device and the network it’s on. Someone can learn a lot just by looking at a person’s IP address. Web administrators and law enforcement can use IP addresses to track devices and find people using them.
Yet, there are only a limited amount of IP addresses that can be assigned at a time. Once that upper limit of IP addresses is reached, the internet can stop functioning entirely. With IPv6, significantly more IP addresses can be assigned at a time, avoiding the problem entirely.
Keep reading below to learn more about IP addresses, and how they work to keep you online!
There are Two Kinds of IP Addresses
When the internet was first built, the creators agreed on a 32-bit IP address scheme, called IPv4. This standard allowed web servers to assign 4.5 billion addresses at a time. Back then, it seemed like there would never be that many devices connected a time.
Yet, times have changed. Now, almost everyone has at least one device that can connect to the internet. As a result, there are fewer and fewer addresses that can be assigned a time, and it’s becoming a problem. The phenomenon is known as IPv4 address exhaustion.
To solve it before issue truly cripples the internet, IPv6 was developed. The addressing scheme for IPv6 looks like this:
Rather than divide the address sections by periods, like with IPv4, IPv6 divides sections with colons. The scheme also uses a hexadecimal system, rather than a traditional numbering system. Instead of each character only ever being 0 – 9, they can be 0-f.
With hexadecimal, you can count up to 16 bits with one character. The letters represent number 10-15. For example, ‘a’ in hexadecimal mathematically means ’10,’ but the represents the number with one character instead of two. That way, IPv6 can provide 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 address.
There will never be that many devices that can connect to the internet at once. So, with IPv6, as long as the internet exists it will never run out of IP addresses to assign.
What is IPv6? The Solution to a Problem You Don’t Know About
Four factors are contributing to the IP address exhaustion issue. Individually, they represent serious strides in the technology industry and the widespread improvement of people’s communication capabilities across the world. Combined, they have caused new technologies to pop up that both damage the Internet’s stability, but also maintain a usable amount of addresses.
The first factor is the proliferation of smartphones. These devices are constantly dependent on the internet and must stay online almost all the time to function properly.
The fact that new devices are constantly online is the second factor contributing to the problem. It means they are constantly holding onto at least one IP address, which also significantly drains the pool of available addresses.
The third factor deals with how IP addresses were assigned when the internet first began. Many organizations were simply assigned more IP addresses than they needed, depleting the pool.
Finally, most of the world now has access to the internet. While that’s great for social equality and mobility, it also means digital infrastructure is under more strain than ever. IPv6 addressing can alleviate that strain and ensure it never becomes a problem again.
Yet before that can happen, organizations need to adopt IPv6 addressing schemes. They also need to make plans in case they can’t get online.
IPv6 Adoption is Slow
Although IPv6 can help prevent a serious issue and protect the internet, many organizations simply aren’t adopting it. While many first-world ISPs and cell phone carriers have made efforts to roll out IPv6 addressing, the rest of the world is struggling to catch up.
One of the main reasons come as a result of a technology developed to mitigate IP address exhaustion. Network Address Translation (NAT) technology was designed to differentiate between private and public IP addresses. This way, public address pools could find some stability as people could use private addresses instead.
It became a standard technology to connect private networks to the rest of the internet. Yet, it was also only designed to handle IPv4 addresses. Assigning IPv6 addresses to all devices would mean network NAT technology wouldn’t be able to parse IP addresses. As a result, nobody would be able to get online.
Most of the world also simply can’t afford to roll out IPv6 addressing. While major carriers have begun making efforts to assign IPv6 address in the U.S., the rest of the world isn’t so lucky.
Use IPv6 Whenever You Can
The internet is being threatened by a problem most people don’t even know exists. While most users continue to wonder, “what is IPv6,” the pool of IP addresses is rapidly depleting. Many of the institutions responsible for assigning IP addresses are down to their final blocks, and soon there may not be any left.
When that happens, people may be left to wonder why they can no longer get online. Technology is complex, and you can’t expect most people to understand why it may not work. For that, there are experts like us.
Contact us for all your technology and networking needs. We will work to make sure you stay online, no matter what happens.