Imagine if you will for a moment that there were only 9 digits available worldwide for the telephone system. No country codes or other prefixes…only 9 digits. For everyone…IN. THE. WORLD. But with over 6.8 billion people in the world today that would mean that 5.8 billion people would not have a number available. A system with only 9 digits simply wouldn’t work.
That’s the problem that has been facing the internet for the last year or so. When the internet was first invented back in 1983 no one ever could have believed that there would be billions of people and devices getting online all requiring unique IP addresses. In February 2011, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) ran out of addresses to allocate to the Regional Internet Registries. While some of your devices may already share a single address (your home router acts like a switchboard for your home’s devices), if nothing was done about this problem you’d soon have to share a single address with multiple people or even a whole neighborhood. This tangled, constrained Internet would be unsafe and unsustainable.
The current internet system in use up until now has had enough space for about 4.3 billion addresses. The new, larger IPv6 system that will begin going into effect tomorrow has enough space for 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses! That’s 340 followed by 36 zeroes! So it’s unlikely that this new system will need to be replaced anytime in the foreseeable future.
What does this mean to you and me? Probably not too much. The complete transition over to this new system will take time to implement. Some users may need to upgrade their home routers(if it’s really old) or possibly download updated operating system software to enable IPv6 in parallel with IPv4. If you have any questions and want to prepare yourself for the transition, I encourage you to watch the video below and reach out to your ISP for more information.