If you’ve been on the internet for a long time, you may vaguely remember hearing something about IPv4 and IPv6. However, you probably dismissed them or just simply forgot about them, as to most people they are meaningless and don’t affect our lives. Unfortunately, there is a very big technical issue with the internet right now: IPv4. Every time you connect to a website, your computer needs to find an IP address, which is sort of like looking up a number in a phone book.
Now imagine that there’s enough numbers 4.3 billion people and over 4.3 billion people want phone numbers. This is the core of the issue with IPv4: there’s not enough numbers for each device to get its own. To solve this, engineers came up with IPv6, a new protocol that allows for 340 billion billion billion billion numbers. Problem solved! With around five billion devices on the internet, IPv6 will last us for longer than we can imagine. (We hope.)
Unfortunately, IPv6 is not widely adopted for usage yet, which is a bit crazy to think about. Today, World IPv6 Launch day, is an attempt to change that: today, internet providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as major internet properties like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, are all turning on IPv6 in an attempt to start up the network of the future.
Turning on IPv6 today does not mean that IPv4 will simply disappear. While its use will gradually diminish, even today it has a major amount of marketshare left. Comcast, for instance, has observed that 5% of users will be able to take advantage of IPv6 when they flip the switch today, as they need to ship out new devices and software updates for existing devices to enable IPv6.
If you’re interested in seeing which major companies, like AT&T and Yahoo!, are on board for IPv6 Launch Day, you can visit Launch Day’s official website, which includes various promotional gear such as downloadable icons and wallpapers. Or, you can watch Google’s official Launch Day video, which explains with graphics the history of IPv4 and IPv6: