Lexington, KY - A day of reckoning of sorts has arrived for the Internet – the very last IP (Internet Protocol) address under the current version of the protocol has been distributed. The Internet as we have known it has run out of new addresses.
Worries about the end of the Internet are for naught, however, since a new protocol has been adopted that will exponentially increase the number of devices the Internet can handle.
The switch to the new protocol, called IPv6 (the current protocol is IPv4, the fourth version of the Internet protocol), just came into effect this month, and business owners can potentially expect a few changes to the Internet infrastructure of their businesses.
To understand what this all means, one must first understand what an IP address is, and why the current protocol is deficient.
An IP address is the actual label of a computer or device used somewhere on the Internet. IPv4, which provides IP addresses as we know them now, relies on a set of four numbers, each within the range 0-255, to act as the actual addresses for devices – computers, servers, etc. The actual domain names Internet users enter as addresses are masks for the IP addresses. When a user enters a standard domain name, a server checks that name against a registry of IP addresses and routes the connection accordingly, using the IP address of both the sending and receiving machines (think of a letter being mailed with both a recipient’s address and a return address).
For instance, the IP address of http://www.bizlex.com is 188.8.131.52. Typing those numbers into an Internet browser gives a user the same result as if the actual, easier address had been entered. The problem with IPv4 is a limitation in the number of addresses that can exist. The 32-bit (think of a “bit” as a space where either a “0” or a “1” can exist in a digital system) numbering system is limited to 232 choices or roughly 4.29 billion. Doubtless, the number of addresses available when this protocol was created in 1980 seemed insurmountable. The increased use of Internet-ready devices, however, has quickly depleted these options. The last of these over four billion addresses was allocated for use by the Internet Assigned Number Authority (http://www.iana.org, or 184.108.40.206) in early 2011.
The IPv6 protocol officially arrived in 1999, although its use was not widespread until now. IPv6 makes use of a 128-bit string of numbers, resulting in 2128, or 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000available address combinations. The new protocol also allows for increased security, making it a far superior protocol in strength as well as scalability.
In 2011, the Internet Society (http://www.Internetsociety.org, or 220.127.116.11) created a “World IPv6 Day” that saw several major ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and net-based corporations turn on IPv6 capability for a day.