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Heather Oliver is a Technical Writer for Constellix and DNS Made Easy, subsidiaries of Tiggee LLC. She’s fascinated by technology and loves adding a little spark to complex topics. Want to connect? Find her on LinkedIn.
There are approximately 5.27 billion web pages on the internet, and it’s estimated that 380 new sites are created each minute. That’s a lot of web pages. Why does this matter and what does it have to do with IPv6? It’s simple—because every website needs an address that can be read by the Domain Name System (DNS).
In order for the web to work the way it does today, websites must have a unique identifying address that computers and IoT devices can understand. While every domain name is unique, these devices can’t read the human language—they read numbers. This is where DNS comes in. DNS translates website names (Constellix.com) into numerical addresses.
IPv6 stands for Internet Protocol version 6. It’s the latest version of the Internet Protocol, which was developed to accommodate the rapidly growing need for more unique IP addresses. In fact, we are actually running out of IPv4 addresses—and without an alternative—that would be a serious issue. IPv6 is the successor to IPv4 and was designed to supplement and ultimately replace version 4, though total adoption of version 6 is still a ways off.
Did you know?: There was an IPv5, but it never caught on. It was designed to be a streaming protocol but used the same addressing type as IPv4.
Because it consists of 128-bit hexadecimal digits, IPv6 has near-infinite scalability. This solves the dwindling IPv4 problem as it allows up to 340 undecillion addresses. Undecilli-what? If you’re having a hard time picturing that number, it looks like this: 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
IPv4 and IPv6 addresses function similarly in that they both allow devices connected to the internet to communicate with each other. That’s where their similarities end. As mentioned earlier, IPv6 is a 128-bit address. IPv4, on the other hand, is only 32-bit. The header structure of each address differs as well. IPv6 also has less overhead processing and eliminates the need for Network Address Translation (NAT) as address space isn’t a problem.
IPv4 and IPv6 Differences
IPv4 →class-type address space for multicast use (184.108.40.206/4)
IPv6 → integrated address space (FF00::/8)
IPv4 → Broadcast
IPv6 → Multicast
IPv4 → unique and private addresses
IPv6 → unique unicast and local addresses
IPv4 → Uses class types to accommodate network sizes
IPv6 → Uses subnetting
Currently, both address types coexist and are often run together on dual stacks or by tunneling one protocol within another. Another way IPv4 and IPv6 are used together is through Network Address Translation-Protocol Translation (NAT-PT), which has the ability to translate IPv6 addresses into IPv4 packets.
Did you know?: IPv6 has actually been in existence since 1995. It was introduced as an IPv4 replacement and in 2017, was approved as an Internet Standard by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 2017. I guess old habits really do die hard!
Visually, it’s easy to tell the difference between IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Even if you don’t know which is which, they have distinct characteristics.
Depending on the network your computer or device is connected to, you may have an IPv4 and an IPv6 address. And most modern smartphones support IPv6. Which IP your mobile device uses will depend on the carrier and the device it’s attempting to connect to.
If you need to know your device’s IP or just want to see if you have an IPv6 address, there are several simple ways you can find this information.
Tip: If you want to find your public IP address, you can simply google “What is my IP” and it will be displayed as a top result. Alternatively, you can use a site like whatismyipaddress.com, which will check for both public IPv4 and IPv6 addresses on your device.
On Windows 10, for instance, you can find your IP in Network & Internet, which can be accessed through Settings. Steps will vary for older Windows operating systems.
Once you’re in Network and settings, just click on the Properties button, which will take you to your device’s network profile. Scroll all the way down and you’ll see your IPv4 address, IPv6 address if you have one, and the address of your DNS servers.
If you’re on a Mac, you’ll need to go to System Preferences and double-click on the Network icon (or access Network through View in the top menu).
Next, select Ethernet or Wi-Fi in the left-hand menu, and you’ll see your IP address information.
You can also find your IP information on your mobile device, typically found in the Network & Internet settings under Wi-Fi preferences.
While it may still be a ways off before IPv6 completely replaces IPv4, it will eventually become the standard. IPv4 doesn’t have the ability to scale with our ever-growing dependency on the internet. Luckily, with IPv6 we won’t have to worry about running out of IP addresses when IPv4 finally becomes obsolete.
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