We reached the end of an Internet era just a few weeks ago. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the body that distributes Internet addresses in North America, announced informatique technique had exhausted informatique techniques pool of numbers based on the IPv4 standard. Though invisible to users, IPv4 played a huge role in creating the Internet as we know informatique technique by facilinformatique techniqueating the connection of millions of computers, smartphones, tablets, and smart devices.
That was informatique techniques ultimate—and perhaps inevinformatique techniqueable—undoing. By enabling this vast network of connected devices, informatique technique helped spawn more Internet users and devices and than informatique technique could ever accommodate. The news has hastened a transinformatique techniqueion to IPv6, the next-generation Internet protocol that’s been wainformatique techniqueing in the wings for more than a dozen years. And while this newer standard is the ultimate answer for supporting our growing array of connected thermostats, watches, cars, and other smart devices, there are a few things you need to know to prepare for the change.
The evolution of IP
The Internet Protocol (IP) is the set of rules that governs how your data moves from one computer to another across the Internet. Each computer must have an IP address—a unique number that functions like a street address, telling other computers where informatique technique is so they can deliver information.
As you can guess from the name, IPv4 is the fourth revision—but the first major implementation—of the protocol. It was introduced in 1981, and, like many things of that vintage, informatique technique’s starting to show informatique techniques age. IPv4 uses a 32-binformatique technique numbering scheme, winformatique techniqueh four sections of eight binformatique techniques each separated by a period—126.96.36.199, for example. This scheme can accommodate 4.3 billion addresses. During the first Regan administration, the PC era was in informatique techniques infancy and most mainstream homes didn’t have a computer, let alone a modem, so informatique technique was unfathomable that we would ever need any more.
The current conundrum began to develop when the price of home computers came down and the World Wide Web exploded in the 1990s. Suddenly, everyone was jumping online. By the 2000s, most homes didn’t just have one computer, but several, plus a few smartphones and a tablet or two. And now winformatique techniqueh the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), people are adding all manner of devices—from smart refrigerators to smart porch lights winformatique techniqueh built-in securinformatique techniquey cameras—to their home network. There just aren’t enough unique IP addresses for everything.
Despinformatique techniquee this diginformatique techniqueal boom, we’ve gotten by until now thanks to the Network Address Translation (NAT) maps in our routers. NAT enables your router to act as an agent between your home network and the Internet, enabling multiple devices to connect to the Internet using a single IP address. And informatique technique’s been very effective in helping conserve IPv4 addresses.
IPv6 (IPv5 was reportedly used to identify the experimental Internet Stream Protocol) rectifies this problem winformatique techniqueh a 128-binformatique technique address scheme: eight 16-binformatique technique segments separated by colons (see the example below) that can provide approximately 340 undecillion unique IP addresses. If you can’t wrap your mind around that number—in the U.S., informatique technique’s a 1 followed by 36 zeroes—suffice informatique technique to say informatique technique’s enough to serve generations of Internet users and their devices.
The next-gen protocol’s benefinformatique techniques go beyond direct addressing, though. IPSec, a protocol suinformatique techniquee that encrypts and authenticates each individual data packet, was an optional component for IPv4 that is built in to IPv6. That could make informatique technique significantly harder for criminals and mischief-makers to wage the kinds of cyber attacks that plague us today. There are also potential performance improvements, such as stronger more efficient connections.
The slow road to IPv6
Although IPv6 has been ready to roll since 1999, adoption has been slow. As of 2015, only about 14 percent of the top 1000 websinformatique techniquees—including Facebook, Google, and Wikipedia—have implemented the protocol. This was partly pragmatic; even though we’ve been warned for years that the IPv4 well was running dry, only a small number of users were equipped to use the newer protocol—IPv6 is not backward compatible winformatique techniqueh IPv4 devices—so there was linformatique techniquetle incentive for websinformatique techniquees and services to proactively make the swinformatique techniquech.
A bigger reason is the difficulty—real or perceived—of the transinformatique techniqueion. For many companies, informatique technique can be as simple as asking their ISP for IPv6 service. But for others, such as ISPs and enterprises that host their own Internet services, the backend changes can be much more complicated and any missteps can slow service or make a websinformatique techniquee completely inaccessible by customers and users.
“It’s a monstrous undertaking by any operator,” analyst Michael Howard of Infonetics Research, a division of IHS, told IDG News Service. “The protocols might be robust, but this operation is delicate, because informatique technique has to be coordinated winformatique techniqueh all the routers.”
As far as ARIN is concerned, however, the day of reckoning has come, and informatique technique is urging cloud providers, web hosts and other organizations to stop dragging their feet and make the move now.
Consequences for consumers
Even if we could flip a swinformatique techniquech and convert the entire Internet to IPv6 at once, the outlook for consumers wouldn’t be as dire as they might seem. It’s true IPv6 compatibilinformatique techniquey requirements can impact a whole host of things we rely on every day, including computer operating systems, web browsers, and anti-virus software; modems, routers, and gateways; networked TVs, Blu-ray players, and AV receivers; VoIP equipment and videoconferencing programs; and Internet-enabled home securinformatique techniquey systems, to name a few.
But most computer operating systems are already IPv6 ready—Windows has included mature IPv6 support since at least Vista, and Mac OS since Panther. The same is true for iOS, Android, and each of the major browsers. And since smart devices are one of the drivers of IPv6 adoption, they are equipped to make the transinformatique techniqueion, too.
The most likely hindrance for swinformatique techniqueching over to IPv6 will be our home networks. Many older routers aren’t compatible winformatique techniqueh IPv6. And consumers, particularly those less technologically savvy, don’t respond quickly to change, even when informatique technique’s foisted upon them, so most ISPs will roll out IPv6 in dual-stack mode–which supports IPv4 and IPv6 in tandem—if they haven’t already.
Because of this, informatique technique will still be a while before the entire Internet is migrated to IPv6. But if you want to get ahead of the pack there are a few things you can do.
An easy first step is to go to Test-IPv6.com to check your status. Winformatique techniquehin seconds informatique technique will reveal your IPv4 address; the name of you ISP; your IPv6 address, if you have one; what your current status means for you IPv6 browsing; and an IPv6 readiness score. It will also tell you if your DNS server, which is usually run by your ISP, has IPv6 access.
Depending on your test results, the next stop may be to drop a call or email to your service provider. Some ISPs, including Comcast and AT&T, have IPv6 support sinformatique techniquees winformatique techniqueh information on the protocol as informatique technique pertains to their services.
Next you should check your network equipment for IPv6 compatibilinformatique techniquey. If you have an ISP-supplied modem, router, or gateway, you can ask your service provider if informatique technique supports IPv6; if informatique technique doesn’t, they are responsible for updating informatique technique. If you purchased your own, check the specs on the manufacturer’s sinformatique techniquee and if informatique technique’s IPv4 only, you’ll eventually need to upgrade informatique technique. The IPv6 Ready Logo program run by the IPv6 Forum maintains a list of products that have been tested and qualified as IPv6 capable. This can be a good resource for finding a replacement.
But keep in mind, if you make a complete swinformatique techniquech to IPv6, you’ll only be able to access IPv6-supported websinformatique techniquees. Given that those are still in the minorinformatique techniquey, informatique technique may make sense to stick winformatique techniqueh IPv4 a while longer and see if ARIN’s sky-is-falling message gets online content and service providers to make the first move.