IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol, which identifies devices across the internet so they can be located. Every device that uses the internet is identified through its own IP address in order for internet communication to work. In that respect, it’s just like the street addresses and zip codes you need to know in order to mail a letter.
The previous version, IPv4, uses a 32-bit addressing scheme to support 4.3 billion devices, which was thought to be enough. However, the growth of the internet, personal computers, smartphones and now Internet of Things devices proves that the world needed more addresses. The IPv6 protocol can handle packets more efficiently, improve performance and increase security. It enables internet service providers to reduce the size of their routing tables by making them more hierarchical.
At this current point in time most of the IPv4 addresses available have been used up and getting more is very costly and requires a lot of work to do. The internet is starting to make big moves to support IPv6. IPv6 has 3.4×10^38 possible addresses to use. It is estimated there is not enough room on earth for the number of devices to use all the addresses available.
Will IPv4 be “shut off”?
Most of the world “ran out” of new IPv4 addresses between 2011 and 2018 – but we will not completely be out of them as IPv4 addresses get sold and re-used, and any leftover addresses will be used for IPv6 transitions.
There is no official switch-off date, so people should not be worried that their internet access will suddenly go away one day. As more networks transition, more content sites support IPv6 and more end users upgrade their equipment for IPv6 capabilities, the world will slowly move away from IPv4.
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