In 1998 the Internet Engineering Task Force recognized that a critical component of the Internet was likely to run out one day. At the time the number of IP addresses available was approximately 4.3 billion different addresses which was thought to be plenty. Today though with the Internet of Things and people owning multiple devices the world needs more addresses. Thus in 1998 IPv6 was developed and we’ve been promised that it would become a mainstay of the modern Internet but yet today it seems that it is still not in common usage. So what’s up with that?


What we today recognize as an IP address, or IPv4, uses a 32-bit addressing scheme. You would know it by its set of four numbers. This system allowed for around 4.3 billion unique addresses which in 1998 was thought to be plenty. It was developed for ARPANET in 1983 building on experimental versions in the 1970s but like all technology of that time it may have outlived its usefulness.

Think back to 1998. At the time most homes only had one personal computer at most that went online. There were no smartphones. The digital divide was a chasm. The Internet of Things was only a dream. With a world population of around 6 billion that number of IP addresses seemed to be more than enough.


Move forward to today. The world’s population is somewhere around 7.5 billion people and the digital divide is more of a pothole now. How many devices do you have that go online? Your computer, your smartphone, your tablet and don’t forget about your smart fridge, your gaming system, your security cameras or your smart vacuum cleaner. You are probably using at least 3 IP addresses everyday and that is just you.

IPv6 was intended to solve that. Using a 128-bit addressing scheme it makes approximately 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses available. Also gone are the 4 digit numerical scheme it is replaced by 8 groups hexadecimal digits. Seems like enough, doesn’t it? It should be.

So What Happened To IPv5?

Now you may be wondering what happened to IPv5? There was indeed an IPv5, also known as the Internet Stream Protocol and developed in 1979 and envisioned as a complement to IPv4. It used different header formats and was intended to be used with multimedia streaming. While it was helpful in developing VOIP it was never made available to the general public.

Other Benefits Of IPv6

IPv6 offers another major benefit besides just simply having more addresses. The protocol is able to handle packets more efficiently thus improving performance. By being handle to handle packets more efficiently the routing tables can be reduced increasing security.

Why Hasn’t IPv6 Been Implemented?

If you pull up your computer’s Internet information you will see that you have an IPv6 address. So in a way it has been implemented but you will also notice that you have an IPv4 address as well. Now there is nothing wrong with keeping a long standing technology that works while something new is rolled out. After all, it doesn’t seem like anything related to technology is ever rolled out smoothly.

The main reason that it has not been implemented is NAT, or Network Address Translation. This protocol takes a private IP address and makes it a public IP address, which means that a computer that is on a private network (like at your office) is allowed to be able to receive packets from machines located outside of that network. This protocol is necessary because if not implemented large corporations would use a huge number of IP addresses leaving very little left over for the general population.

A computer on a private network is assigned a public IP address by NAT in addition to its private IP address. NAT keeps track of both so that traffic can be sent to the appropriate machine. This allows a single IP address to represent multiple computers on a private network. This protocol prevented the world from running out of IP addresses long before it would have been a problem.

Now IPv6 is being rolled out. Telecoms have been at the forefront with T-Mobile and Verizon leading the way in adoption and others like Comcast and AT&T are also far along as well here in the US. Also around one quarter of Internet users use IPv6 and here in the US around 33.3% of users use IPv6, a rate only exceeded by Germany, India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Uruguay. It is not necessarily cheap to transition, which is also slowing it down as companies have to run both IPv4 and IPv6 infrastructure but since the transition has begun, it isn’t likely to stop so everyone will eventually have to go along.

How Long Does IPv4 Have?

Right now an IPv4 address is a valuable thing. Each address is worth between $13 and $25. Many places in the world have “run out” of IPv4 addresses by 2018. This will raise the cost of those addresses until at least 50% of the world has transitioned to IPv6. It seems that about 5% of the world is converted each year so that point should be reached around 2024 at the latest. At that point IPv4 addresses will no longer be as valuable and it is anticipated that the transition will accelerate.

What Will You Need To Do?

Nothing. All of this is handled in the background and you will not need to do anything. Your website from Nicely Done Sites will continue to function as normal and your own personal computer will also continue to work. You probably won’t even notice that the transition happened.

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