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Internet Protocol (or IP) refers to the technical format of packets and the addressing scheme for computers to communicate over a network. Most networks combine the internet protocol with a higher-level protocol called Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) which establishes a virtual connection between destination and source.
IP can be compared to something like the postal system. It allows us to address a package and drop it in the system without any direct link between the sender and the receiver. TCP/IP, on the contrary, establishes a direct connection between the two hosts so that they can send messages back and forth for a period of time.
Internet Protocol Versions
There are currently two version of Internet Protocol (IP) available: IPv4 and a new version called IPv6. IPv6 is an evolutionary upgrade to the Internet Protocol v4. IPv6 will coexist with the older IPv4 for some time to rule out the deficit in IP addresses.
IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4)
IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) is the fourth revision of the Internet Protocol used to identify devices on a network through an addressing system. The Internet Protocol is designed for use in interconnected systems of packet-switched computer communication networks. IPv4 is the most widely deployed Internet protocol used to connect devices to the Internet. It uses a 32-bit address scheme allowing for a total of 2^32 addresses (about 4.29 billion addresses). With the growth of internet, it is expected that the number of IPv4 addresses will eventually run out because every device, including computers, smartphones and game consoles, that connects to the Internet requires an address. Moreover, there are various unused IP addresses and also, there are institutions and companies which deploy IP addresses for their use.
IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6)
A new internet addressing system known as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is being deployed to fill the gap and fulfill the need for more Internet addresses. IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) is also called IPng (Internet Protocol next generation) and is the newest version of the Internet Protocol (IP) reviewed by the IETF standards committees to replace the current version of IPv4.
IPv6 is the successor to the Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4). It was designed as an evolutionary upgrade to the Internet Protocol and will coexist with the older IPv4 for some time. IPv6 is designed to allow the Internet to grow steadily, both in terms of the number of hosts connected and the total amount of data traffic transmitted.
IPv6 is often referred to as the Next Generation Internet standard and has been under development since the mid-1990s. IPv6 was born out of concern that the demand for IP addresses would exceed the available supply.
Benefits of IPv6
IPv6 utilizes 128-bit Internet addresses. As a result, it can support 2^128 Internet addresses — 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them to be exact. It is a lot of addresses; so many that it requires a hexadecimal system to display them. In other words, we can say that there are more than enough IPv6 addresses to keep the internet operational for a very long time.
While increasing the pool of addresses is one of the most often-talked about benefit of IPv6, there are many other important technological changes too in IPv6 that will improve the protocol:
Difference between IPv4 and IPv6 Addresses
An IP address is in binary numbers but can be stored in text format for human readers. For example, a 32-bit numeric address (IPv4) is written in decimal as four numbers, ranging from 0 to 255, separated by periods. Each number can be of maximum 8 bits in binary format. For example, 172.16.10.199 is an example of an IP address.
As stated earlier, IPv6 addresses are 128-bit IP address written in hexadecimal and separated by colons. An example IPv6 address could be written in the following format: 3cd4:1560:34e4:43cd:2f00:ff48:f45a:63bf.
IPv4 and IPv6 essentially run as parallel networks, i.e. the exchange of data between these protocols requires special gateways.
To make the switch from IPv4 to IPv6, software and routers have to be changed to support the more advanced network. Most operating systems including Mac OS X 10.2 and Windows XP SP 1 support IPv6. However, there are many routers and servers which do not support it. Hence, making a connection between devices with IPv6 address to a router or server that only supports IPv4 becomes difficult. It is essential to make the switch in order for the internet to function as it does today.
In April, 2017, MIT announced that it would sell half of its 16 million valuable IPv4 addresses and use the proceeds of the sale to finance its own IPv6 network upgrades.
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