On June 6, many Web sites and Internet providers will start supporting Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), the next generation Internet protocol, as part of their regular service. But, don’t get into a panic; most users won’t have a thing to worry about.
To get you up to speed, IPv4, and now IPv6, are the core protocols that the Internet uses for pretty much everything. Without them, we wouldn’t have the Web, e-mail, YouTube, you name it. There was only one little problem with IPv4: it’s 32-bit 4.3 billion addresses, which looked like so many in the 1970s, aren’t even close to enough for today’s Internet. Those mobile devices that we love so much like Android phones, iPads, etc. etc. have been sucking down IPv4 addresses like a gas guzzling car from the time of cheap gasoline. For the longest time, we managed to avoid running out of IPv4 addresses with the use of technologies like Network Address Translation (NAT) and Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR), but those haven’t been enough.
As early as 1994, though, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) saw that we were going to run out of Internet gas. So, they came with IPv6. And, how many addresses can it handle? With its 128-bit address space it can have up to 2^128 addresses or 40,282,366,920 billion billion billion usable addressed. Come the day we need to thinking about interstellar Internet, we can start worrying about an IPv8.