IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains]

learn c++ intro   IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains]More recently, there’s been a lot of talk about switching to IPv6 and how it will bring a lot of benefits to the Internet. But, this “news” keeps repeating itself, as there’s always an occasional post which tries to push the Internet to the IPv6 protocol. Why is this theme recurring, you ask? Primarily because the transition to the new protocol is very slow.

However, does it really matter to you whether the transition is going slowly or not? Should you even care? Why is IPv6 better than IPv4 anyways, besides that 6 is bigger than 4? In case you haven’t been asking yourself these kinds of questions, now is the best time to start.

A History Lesson

ipv6 ipv4   IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Shall we take a stroll down memory lane? Let’s go all the way back to before I was born – the 1980s to be precise – where the framework of the Internet we know and love today is being developed and implemented. The IP protocol, for those who don’t know, is the main protocol that, along with other services, makes the Internet work. The protocol sets up the entire system of IP addresses and data transfer. IPv4 is just one revision of that protocol, which became a de facto standard in 1981 and has been used ever since.

Back then, the developers couldn’t have possibly dreamed of how many people who will be using the Internet today, so they decided to use 32-bit IP addresses which would yield a total amount of 4,294,967,296 different addresses before the system would be completely loaded. This worked great back in the day and for many years beyond that, but not anymore.

ipv6 manyusers   IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Ever since Internet usage absolutely skyrocketed through simple adoption and the invention of the data-consuming smartphone, those available addresses have been filling up rapidly. In fact, as we speak there are no more IPv4 addresses available today, and we are only able to connect to the Internet because of some very complicated stuff the ISPs are doing temporarily. Foreseeing this problem, developers got to work and released the IPv6 specification in December 1998.

This protocol version, among with other new features, includes support for up to 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 different addresses using a 128-bit system. I don’t even know how to say that number using real words. Simply put, there will be more than enough addresses until we find alien life and invite them to use our Internet.

Where Are We At Today?

Now, notice when the IPv6 specification was released – December 1998. 14 years later, about 99% of the Internet is still using the overloaded IPv4 protocol. Progress is a bit slow, don’t you think? But that’s not even the worst part. While ISPs and the world’s websites slowly make the transition to IPv6, ISPs will still have to implement their workaround so that users can still access all websites, no matter if they made the switch yet or not. This workaround doesn’t come without a few issues.

Why Not Switching To IPv6 Is Hurting You

ipv6 today thumbs down   IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Essentially, ISPs need to make an abstraction layer which will go in between the Internet and you, the user. This abstraction layer is a little picky, however, because when you communicate with an IPv6 site or service (and therefore require the use of the abstraction layer), you’ll have an issue with ports. Ports, in case you don’t know, are simply little “doors” on your machine or a server, where each door leads to the correct program on the machine to work with the data however it needs to. With the abstraction layer, port routing becomes a little simplified, and clogs up very easily.

For example, if you use a service like Google Maps which requires multiple ports, you’ll be fine. However, if two systems in the same house try to access Google Maps, it won’t work for one of the two systems because the other system is using up the needed ports.

The abstraction layer can also become a security concern, because the single IP address you receive via the abstraction layer is responsible for multiple computers, so successful hackers can access more computers with just a single IP address. IP addresses shared with a block of homes will make it difficult to determine where certain traffic is coming from, such as illegal torrents.

Another option instead of using an abstraction layer is to run both protocols simultaneously and translate the traffic between them. While it would work, it would create additional stress for your ISPs servers and add latency to your connection, which can frustrate not only gamers but most common users too.

Conclusion

To summarize and answer the question: should you care about IPv6 as a user? Absolutely! Not only is the transition to the updated protocol long overdue, but it’s becoming rather necessary so that we can continue to enjoy a beautifully working Internet. Feel free to write, call, or petition your ISP into making the switch in the hopes it’ll get them motivated. I mean, they’ll have to do it at some point anyways, so why not now when we need it more than ever? If they respond by saying it’s too hard to accomplish at the moment, maybe they shouldn’t have formed an ISP in the first place.

If you’d like to learn more about what makes up the Internet, check out one of our guides on the topic here at MakeUseOf!

What are your thoughts about IPv6? Why are people making the transition so slowly, and what else could help speed up the process? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Internet background with binary code via Shutterstock, Xeni Jardin, Jesper Rønn-Jensen

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35 Comments -

Josh Vogler

Alien life has already found us, and are actively using our internet. They are equally equipped to use both IPv4 and IPv6, but are also pushing for v6 to be the mainstream choice.

Danny Stieben

Oh, so that’s why we ran out of IPv4 addresses! Who would’ve known. ;)

At least the aliens are smart enough to push for IPv6 as well.

Yash Kataria

Excellent article Danny. But still I have one concern, As per of now, the shifting rate from IPv4 is even slower than turtles and snails, how much time it will take to complete this task, Also Do I need to update my hardware to welcome this change.

Achraf Almouloudi

Yes you would have to purchase an IPv6 router if your current do not support it, after your ISP offer IPv6 support but fortunately Windows and other popular OS support the protocol so they can communicate using it .

Danny Stieben

Thanks, Yash! Sadly I’m not sure how long the transition will take, but if we haven’t completed the transition by 2020 then I’ve lost all hope for humanity.

Besides possibly the router (although most modern routers can use IPv6 just fine), you shouldn’t need to upgrade any hardware. It’s all ready to use IPv6, but your ISP just isn’t supplying the goodness, so all that technology is just sitting there, unused.

kunal chopra

every country’s many radio active explosions’s machines are all activated with ip v4 .so if for a second ip address is deactivated then there will b a huge loss…so the shift from v4 to v6 cannot be so sudden..ip v4 will play a supporting protocol role to v6 for atleast 3 years then after that all address will be changed to v6..

Danny Stieben

Whoa wait, radioactive explosion machines? You’ll have to explain that one to me. :)

kunal chopra

you know all the machines ….i mean in defence of every country (particularly radioactive machines )..have ip addresses ?
so this address is of version 4…!!
ok so to suddenly activate version 6 is not possible…!!! got? i know u dint think that this could also be the reason but ya it is!!!
and also ..do you know that it would take complete 3 days to convert version 4 ip of whole world to version 6 ip..and the cannot happen coz for 3 days whole world will not be able to use internet!!!

Shane La Horie

Another Great Article…

Danny Stieben

Thank you Shane!

Kelly Buchanan

Thanks for the history lesson!

Yew Zhi Yong

How should you know if your router supports IPv6?

Danny Stieben

It you go through your router’s settings (I can’t be more specific because each router is different), if there is so much as a mention of IPv6 it probably supports it.

Matheus Pratta

Are these IPv6 networks already available for any ISP? One day I was reading some of my system configurations at home and there was the IPv6 address too (not the ::1, wich is local, but a TRUE IPv6 one)…

Doc

Windows XP SP3 has an installable IPv6 stack, and newer versions (Vista, 7, 8) come with IPv6 installed out of the box. Any modern Linux kernel should support IPv6 as well.

The only way to know if your ISP provides you with IPv6 is to look in your router’s status page and see if there is an IPv6 WAN gateway address.

(PS: It’s “which,” not “wich”).

Danny Stieben

Yes, as Doc said, it really depends. I haven’t taken the time to identify ISPs who actually support IPv6 currently, but a google search or two should provide some answers.

Jeff

Nice article Danny.

Many of the recent “home/SMB” Wireless routers support IPv6; both native and various types of tunnels. I have been testing and researching many of them for the last 1.5 years.

There are at least 3 tunnel brokers in NA who offer free IPv6 tunnels for those whose ISPs do not support IPv6. (my favorites are http://www.tunnelbroker.net for networks and individual computers, and http://www.gogo6.com/freenet6 for individual computers when I travel)

I have business AT&T Uverse and a few months ago they started doing v6 tunneling…no warning or notice. I have a AT&T business DSL and they don’t, and I just got Charter Business Internet and they don’t.

Sadly, for those of us in the FtW/Dal area, many of the big-name ISPs are behind supplying IPv6 to residential customers, and even for SMB businesses someday they’ll have it, we hope.

Dual-stack will be a networking way-of-life for at least a few years.

IPv6 is coming :-)

btw, http://www.makeuseof.com is not IPv6 friendly ;-)

Danny Stieben

You’re from DFW? Great to hear from a local reader! :)

That’s some great info. I sure hope IPv6 will be coming soon, but what “soon” is…we will find out.

I’ll talk to James, our tech guy, about that. ;)

ferdinan Sitohang

nice artikel, and thanks for sharing

Danny Stieben

Thanks Ferdinan!

Lee Hamilton

How are we surviving with many more devices connected to the internet than IPV4 addresses? Answer: reserved private IP addresses and network address translation (NAT)

Many ISPs and companies use reserved private IP addresses and network address translation (NAT) such that the local address seen from your computer is from one of typically two address spaces: 10.x.x.x (24 bit block with about 16 MB addresses) or 192.168.x.x (16 bit block about 64 KB addresses) (a third rarely used one is available with addresses in the range 172.16.0.0 – 172.31.255.255 for about 1 MB addresses). Most home routers also provide the same type of NAT between the upstream “WAN” (probably your broadband modem) and the downstream “local” connections. NAT translation takes a request from your PC’s private IP address, and routes it up the internet using an assigned IP address and changing the port numbers, keeping track of the translation so that when responses come back the external IP address and port is associated with the original requesting IP address and port and sent to the requesting device.

An “ipconfig” will show the assigned address that your computer is using. If you do a tracert, e.g. “tracert http://www.google.com” from a command prompt, you will typically see a 10. or 192.168. address for the first few “hops” before your request is actually routed to the public internet. These each represent different private networks, the first one may be your router or internet modem.

Many companies that I have worked for also use the private network addresses in house, with some public addresses for public access and network gateways. A company with a thousand or a hundred thousand or more PCs and other devices will then only need a small set of assigned public IP addresses with most intra company IP traffic staying on a private network and never being exposed to the public internet. Web browsing, email and other services require a public IP address.

Some heavily hit services such as Google and larger email and search providers may have a block of 254 or more addresses that are used to handle requests, the selection of one of the addresses is handled by the services name servers to help produce a balanced load.

By the way, the use of a router with NAT translation does a good job of hiding your computer from the internet eliminating drive by malware (unless you configure it to pass certain IP address & port combinations to a specific PC). However, it does nothing about malware that may be delivered with emails and other files.

Danny Stieben

Thanks for the great write up!

Do you think wireless carriers use NAT translation as well when it comes to all the smartphones which are being used today? (If not, they should as that would definitely alleviate the problem with our IPv4 addresses.)

Samuel George

please, how can i switch to ipv6, i need it badly. thanks so much

Samuel George

how can i switch?

Danny Stieben

The only way you can switch is to find an ISP which offers IPv6; there’s nothing else you could do besides IPv6-over-IPv4 tunneling (you’ll have to Google that). Your computer and router should already be IPv6-ready.

Why do you need it so badly? :)

Choon Khai

Okay, now how to configure our computer to IPV6?

Danny Stieben

Your computer is most likely already IPv6-ready…it just depends on when your ISP actually gives you IPv6 service (which right now is highly unlikely).

Choon Khai

Oh that means, if only our ISP provides IPv6 service, then we can utilize this function..

Danny Stieben

That’s exactly right.

Scutterman

It seems that even those who study history are doomed to repeat it. Every article I read on IPV6 makes a point of saying that when IPV4 originated they had no way of imagining that the addresses would ever run out, then the articles all go on to say that IPV6 will last us forever. They even go so far as to use analogies to grains of sand, blades of grass, and stars in the universe.
No-one ever seems to consider the possibility that we also don’t know what’s around the corner.
I always like to steal the from xkcd ( http://xkcd.com/865/ ) and use nanobots as an example of what could possibly use up so many IPV6 addresses that we overstretch, but there’s other examples such as mass-colonisation of other planets.

I think that, as soon as we finally have everyone running on IPV6, we need to start implementing the next generation. With any luck we may get it in place slightly before we run out this time, though I doubt I’ll be around to see it.

Danny Stieben

I absolutely agree with you on what you said. Nothing else needs to be added. :)

vivek u

Thanx for the information

hazrat mohammad

that’s very good

Kaashif Haja

I wanted to ask one thing!
If my ISP switches to IPv6, should i buy a new modem or continue with the same one?

Danny Stieben

You should be fine with your current modem, I believe. I don’t play around much with modems, so if I’m wrong then my apologies.