Acronym Monday: IPv6
Today’s Acronym Monday is brought to you by the acronym IPv6.
At the core of this acronym is “IP” which stands for internet protocol. The “v6” stands for version 6, which is the current version of internet protocol. This version took over from its predecessor IPv4. If you use devices that connect to the internet, you’ve probably encountered internet protocol before as an IP address.
But what is an IP address?
Think of the internet like a town or, even better, a city. According to cityofchicago.org, there are more than 4,000 miles of roads in Chicago, and almost half as many alleys. Depending on the location, there might be hundreds of addresses on any given mile of road in Chicago. Yet each address is unique, and you could mail a letter to any one of them.
IP addresses work like that. Every device on a network has it’s own unique IP address, so that it can exchange information with other devices.
How is IPv6 different from IPv4?
The problem with IPv4 is that there are only so many addresses available (according to the Geek Stuff, exactly 4,294,967,296 unique addresses). IPv4 was developed when the internet was still in its infancy, but as household computers became common it experienced an explosion of growth. The internet was growing so fast it became apparent that we would eventually run out of IP addresses. It’s like if you wanted to move to Chicago and discovered the city was full and there were no apartments or houses available.
An IPv4 address is arranged in four sets of decimal numbers with periods in between each set (192.0.2.13 for example). Between each period, the number can be between 0 and 255.
IPv6 addresses are much more complex. They are arranged in eight sets of four letters and numbers with a colon separating each set (3ffe:1900:4545:0003:0200:f8ff:fe21:67cf for example). I’m not going to begin to go into detail about the different ways to abbreviate IPv6 addresses. It’s getting complex enough just looking at the example. The Geek Stuff article linked to above has some really good information if you’d like to delve deeper into the subject.
The important thing is, there are trillions and trillions more IP addresses available in IPv6 than there were in IPv4. In fact, there are theoretically 2128 addresses available. Put into a more observable number, that would be 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 or over 340 undecillion unique IP addresses available with IPv6.
They certainly weren’t screwing around when they designed this system. With a number like that, we almost certainly will never run out.
Why should you care as a consumer?
The fact is, you probably shouldn’t care. As long as you are using newer devices with newer versions of operating systems, you should be fine. Your internet service providers will begin supporting IPv6 soon if they haven’t already, and you probably won’t even notice the difference.
The only thing you may need to worry about in the future is getting a router that supports IPv6. If you’re shopping for a new router, keep that in mind, so you can be ready for the future.