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IPv … What? I Need to Know This Why?

Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

You may have heard that today begins the long process of switching from the IPv4 Internet standard to IPv6. But like most of us, you probably have no idea what that means. Here’s a straightforward explanation of what the transition means and what you need to know going forward.

You know how most Web addresses are in word form (such as and in number form ( in ReviverSoft’s case)? Well, there are only so many sets of 4 digits to go around, and the Internet’s run out. So there’s a drawn-out process to switch to a set of 6 numbers, called IPv6.

Why is it bad that the Internet’s running out of addresses? If a new site can’t have an address assigned to it, nobody will be able to reach it. It’s like the problem with running out of telephone numbers and the many different solutions the phone companies have found for that. Not only does this affect sites you visit, but also the address assigned to the PC you’re using right now.

To put it in perspective, IPv4 supports 4,294,986,296 addresses, while IPv6 supports 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. It’s going to take a REALLY long time for us to run out of IPv6 addresses. Human civilization might end first.

Today is World IPv6 day, meaning that domain name servers, the computers that control how Web site addresses are accessed, are supposed to switch over to IPv6 if possible.

Many Internet service providers worldwide are struggling to handle and be compatible with IPv6, and many of you may experience some pretty severe slowness for some time, starting today, as these providers begin to switch over. Also, anyone using older Web browsers may find it difficult to visit certain sites at all.

Luckily, the latest versions of all the big browsers, such as Google Chrome, support IPv6 fully. In fact, some browsers run a check on sites that use both IPv6 and IPv4, and if IPv6 is faster, it’ll load that one instead to give you a boost.

There’s nothing you need to do on your end to make the transition go faster. You’ll just have to bear with the slowness Internet-wide, if you do experience it, while the huge behemoth that is the Internet makes the slow transition.

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