Running out of IPv4 addresses will not mean the end of the Internet, but it will require a big change. This change is coming in the form of IPv6.
In June, ARIN had foreshadowed the problem, “It is very likely that we are already process a request that we will be unable to fulfill.”
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses work as the GPS system of the Internet. IP addresses tell a computer where to find the website that’s being requested. Every device that connects to the Internet, i.e. game consoles, smart phones, and laptops all have IP addresses.
As more devices connect to the Internet and as more servers are being built, they must have an IP address to be used as a part of the Internet.
The End of the IPv4 Era
IPv4 system, which was created in 1981, is based on 32-bit number combinations, which allowed for 4.3 billion unique IP addresses, almost all of which are now being used.
Now that all IPv4 addresses have been taken, anyone looking for a new IP must either buy one from someone else or adopt the IPv6 format. Some businesses have decided to purchase more IPv4 addresses on the secondary market instead of switching. In most cases blocks of IPv4 addresses can be bought for around $15 each. Buying more IPv4 addresses can only delay the inevitable for these businesses.
The Internet Engineering Task Force designed and developed IPv6 in the early 90’s to prepare for the end of the IPv4 era.
IPv6 addresses use a 128-bit addressing formula, which drastically increases the number of possible new IP address. The IPv6 addressing system will allow for 340 undecillion (340 followed by 66 zeros) IP addresses.
Aside from drastically expanding the amount of available space, the switch to IPv6 will offer several benefits.
IPv6 will provide the ability to easily be secured and encrypted. Compliance with Internet Protocol Security is required in IPv6. The added security can help protect users when downloading and uploading.
IPv6 uses a more efficient header formatting which places non-essentials fields after the IPv6 header. The new format should eliminate some of the connection issues with IPv4.
How it will change the experience
Many users are worried about how the change from IPv4 to IPv6 is going to change the way they utilize the Internet. Most Internet users will not notice any difference. If anything some people will notice a faster and more reliable Internet experience.
While IPv4 and IPv6 operate essentially the same, they work independently. Meaning that if a website is using IPv6, the receiver must also be using IPv6. Fortunately, almost every piece of modern technology is built with IPv6 capabilities. As more people begin to adopt IPv6, some users will have to download programs that translate IPv6 to IPv4 to continue to browse their favorite websites.
Currently only 6 percent of websites are using the IPv6 system. While the majority of websites still are not using IPv6, some of the most popular websites are. Google, Facebook, YouTube, and several others have already begun to use IPv6 as well as IPv4.
Although everyone is being forced to switch to IPv6, that does not mean that all IPv4 websites will become obsolete. There is no official date that everything must function on IPv6. Computer manufactures, Internet providers, and website designers will continue to provide IPv4 compatibility for several years to come.
The transition to IPv6 is coming at an excellent time. Internet based technology is being integrated into every facet of life. From watches, refrigerators, and even Coke machines. With the surge of devices that connect to the Internet, there has to be a pool of available IP addresses for them to use. As with many transitions, there is not time like the present.