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What is IPv6?

By David White
Updated May 16, 2024
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IPv6 stands for Internet Protocol version 6. It is the second version of the Internet Protocol to be used generally across the virtual world. The first version was IPv4. IPv5 was a protocol of a different sort, intended to support video and audio rather than all-purpose addressing. IPv6 is also known as IPng, which stands for IP Next Generation.

One of the main upgrades in IPv6 is in the number of addresses available for networked devices. For example, each mobile phone or other kind of electronic device can have its own address. IPv6 allows 3.4x1038 addresses. This is mainly due to the number of bits in each protocol. IPv4 addresses have 32 bits in them and so allow a maximum of four billion addresses. Version 6 addresses have 128 bits.

However, IPv4 is still the protocol of choice for most of the Internet. The transition will be a steady one, and IPv6 is the future of Internet addressing, mainly because industry experts believe that they are close to running out of available addresses altogether.

Another example of an IPv6 upgrade is multicasting, which is standard in this version but only optional in IPv4. Multicasting is delivering a data stream to multiple destinations at the same time, with no duplication unless called for. Those functionalities are not supported by IPv4. The other two types of addressing that are standard practice for the newer version are unicast and anycast. The former is a transmission from just one host to just one other host; the latter is from one host to the nearest of many hosts.

IPv6 also has two other significant advantages over IPv4. It offers a higher level of built-in security, and it has been specifically designed with mobile devices in mind. The security comes in the form of IPsec, which allows authentication, encryption, and compression. The mobility comes in the form of Mobile IP, which allows roaming between different networks without losing an established IP address. Both of these functionalities are requirements of IPv6 and so are designed to be built into every stack, address, and network.

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Discussion Comments

By fraser — On Mar 14, 2013

IPv6 sounds like a good way to go, very exciting. I was wondering what is going to happen in the near future having so many IP addresses around, but it seems like IPv6 will come in handy after all.

By JaneAir — On Feb 15, 2012

Multicasting sounds like a good IPv6 example of an upgrade. A lot of people use the Internet to send data or streaming video. Being able to send the same data stream to many locations without having to duplicate it sounds very efficient.

Also, I like the idea of more security. Computer hackers are still out there, and seem to be growing more sophisticated. It's a good idea to add features to Internet protocol in order to protect Internet users.

By Azuza — On Feb 14, 2012

@KaBoom - Yeah, it makes a lot of sense that they might run out of IP addresses. If you consider the fact that most people have way more than one Internet device, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner. For example, I have a cell phone, a laptop, and a tablet, and I'm assuming all of those have different IP addresses. And I'm just one person!

Also, I think it's really good that the IPv6 migration is addresses mobile devices. Most people these days have an Internet enabled smart phone. Also, tablets are growing in popularity everyday. It stands to reason that any update to the Internet should take this into account.

By KaBoom — On Feb 13, 2012

I keep hearing that more and more people in the world are on the Internet, which I think is great. However, I've never though about the practical aspects of the increased amount of people using the Internet. I never thought that they could run out of addresses for Internet users, for example!

It seems like the IPv6 transition will fix this problem though. Having 128 bit addresses seems to allow for way more than 4 billion IP addresses, so as long as everyone makes the transition we won't run out of IP addresses.

By anon185001 — On Jun 10, 2011

just anon41043 said mozilla suggested it too on my PC.. is there any problem if i turned off it?

By anon41043 — On Aug 12, 2009

I've been having random problems accessing web sites and Mozilla suggested I turn off ipv6 which I have. Haven't noticed the problem since but it's only been a couple of days. My question is there a problem with turning it off? I'm on dial-up and using Linux if it matters. Thanks

By anon14974 — On Jun 28, 2008

what is internet protocol?

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