What is IPv6?
IPv6, meaning Internet Protocol Version six, has been a buzzword in the web hosting ecosystem for a while now. But what exactly does it imply, and what does it have to offer you as a website owner?
The Internet Protocol Version 6 is a network layer protocol that enables interaction across the web. Because of the rapidly increasing number of internet users worldwide, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) established IPv6 in December 1998 with the goal of succeeding IPv4.
- What is the Internet Protocol (IP)?
- Exhaustion of IPv4 Addresses
- Why IPv6 Was Introduced
- IPv6: A Long-Awaited Upgrade
- What IPv6 Addresses Look Like
What is the Internet Protocol (IP)?
The Internet Protocol (IP) is a means for sending data across the internet to multiple computers. Every computer or network interface on the internet has a minimum of one IP address as a unique designation.
Therefore, an IP address is issued to any device that connects to the internet. That is why the number of IP addresses in IPv4 was a source of concern, and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) had to establish the new IPv6 system.
Exhaustion of IPv4 Addresses
The necessity for IP address conservation was recognized early in the 1990s. As a result, the global Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) set up a system of five regional internet registries (RIRs). The five RIRs obtained sets of 16m addresses from the IANA, from which they gave out addresses. Yet, IANA announced the exhaustion of the IPv4 address space in February 2011 after allocating the final of its biggest blocks.
Allocated IPv4 address space over time, by RIR. from www.potaroo.net/tools/ipv4/
Ever since, RIRs grew increasingly stricter when it came to allocating addresses, and a block of roughly 1,000 addresses is supplied by the European RIR, RIPE NCC, at a time. Also, the introduction of network address translation (NAT) greatly slowed the consumption of globally unique IP addresses, enabling a whole network of computers to access the internet through a single globally unique IP address, like your local network. However, before the last block got exhausted, it became evident that a new strategy was required, and that’s what birthed the new order of the day – IPv6. Read more on Origin and Launch of IPv6
Why IPv6 Was Introduced
The number of internet users has exploded unprecedentedly over the years. As of April 2022, there were five billion internet users worldwide (Statista.) In comparison to 2020’s estimates, this represents a yearly 316 million riser. The global increase of active internet users is 7.3%, which is over seven times greater than the global population growth of 1%. Given the world’s population of 7.83 billion people, this translates to a worldwide internet penetration rate of around 63%.
IPv6 had to be established as a standard to ultimately replace IPv4, which is still used by many digital services even now, for one primary reason: To ensure network growth and continued interconnectivity when IPv4 address space becomes depleted and difficult to obtain.
IPv6: A Long-Awaited Upgrade
IPv6 was created with the goal of resolving IPv4-related challenges. It allows 340 undecillion distinct addresses with its 128-bit address space. According to Dick Guertin, a docent at the Computer History Museum, this figure allows an IPv6 address for every atom on the planet’s surface, with enough left for over 100 additional identical planets. IPv6 is also known as IPng (Internet Protocol next generation).
IPv6 can support up to 340, 282, 366, 920, 938, 463, 463, 374, 607, 431, 768, 211, 456 addresses. Essentially, there’s no theoretical way of us running out of IP addresses again. Now, each IPv6 address, a 128-bit alphanumeric value, can locate any other device on the 6th version of the internet protocol without ado. Read more on Key Statistics and Facts About IPv6
What IPv6 Addresses Look Like
IPv4 addresses, structured in four sections separated by dots, are undoubtedly recognizable. Each segment, expressed in Base 10 numerals, corresponds to an eight-bit binary value ranging from 0 to 255. (000000 to 1111111 in binary).
The following is an example of an IPv6 address: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334. There are 8 numbers rather than four, and colons instead of commas split them. Because IPv6 addresses are expressed in hexadecimal (Base 16) notation, that means 16 separate symbols are used to distinctly represent the numbers 1-16 in base ten. The numerals 0-9, as well as the letters A-F, are the ones that are utilized, and every single one of these numbers denotes a 16-bit binary number, which ranges from 000000000000 to 11111111111111. Read more on IPv6 address parts, notation and structure.