So what’s this IPv6 thing anyway?

Today, June 8th 2011 is World IPv6 day.

GoogleFacebookYahoo!Akamai and Limelight Networks will be amongst some of the major organisations offering their content over IPv6 for a 24-hour period. The aim is to motivate organizations across the industry – Internet service providers, hardware manufacturers, operating system vendors and web companies – to prepare their services for IPv6 to ensure a successful transition as IPv4 addresses run out.

IPv4 was conceived in the early 1980s as a way of identifying individual connections to a computer network.  It is what 99% of us use at the moment whether it be to connect an internal network (private addressing), or to connect to the internet with a public IP address.

It is typically made up of 32 bits, written as 12 digits, e.g.

That gives a maximum of around 4.3bn addresses.

You can find out your public IP address here

However, the rapid growth in PCs, smartphones and other internet connected devices means those addresses are close to being used up, with an estimated 80 million still to be allocated.

IPv6 is a 128bit system, written in hexadecimal (base 16 counting using numbers and letters), e.g. 21DA:00D3:0000:2F3B:02AA:00FF:FE28:9C5A.  It is basically a combination of a MAC address (unique to each individual device) and a TCP/IP network address.

The system gives a maximum of 340 undecillion possible addresses (1 undecillion = 10 followed by 35 zeros in the British numbering system).

The additional capacity, argue proponents of IPv6, will be needed to cater to the so-called “internet of things” where devices such as TVs, fridges and home heating systems are connected to the net.

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