What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?

Q:

What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?

A:

There are numerous differences between the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols, but all of them are based on the issue of a progressive step in internet protocols that offers a greater variety of available addresses for devices, at the very time that the internet of things and other technologies are exploding, causing a great demand for new IP addresses.

IPv4 was the fourth version of IP addressing from the groups and standards organizations that make the rules for the internet. With a 32-bit address, IPv4 offered over four billion addresses, but at this time, the global community is already running out of available IPv4 addresses.

With that in mind, IPv6 has been in the works for some time. IPv6 uses a 128-bit address to greatly expand available choices. It also fixes some security problems with IPv4.

When it comes to speed, there are different theories on how IPv4 and IPv6 work. IPv6 has more simplified routing. However, there may be fewer available passers of IPv6, which could lead to larger hops and possible latency issues. Most users wouldn't recognize these issues, since the latency involved would be extremely small.

An easy way to think about IPv4 versus IPv6 is that the internet simply ran out of available numbers and standard-bearers like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) prepared for this eventuality with the new IPv6 protocol. New addresses don't require changing the engineering of the internet or the technologies in question. Administrators can simply give the new addresses to users and build them into device designs.

With that in mind, IPv6 is “the future of the internet.” Ultimately, it’s likely that the IPv4 system will be phased out to create a standardized system of addresses, unless the existing infrastructure remains so important that both protocols must coexist into the longer term.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.
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