The internet has changed forever today as IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 4), the new internet standard for assigning unique addresses to devices on the internet, has been formally adopted worldwide. It will replace the old IPv4 system that has been in use ever since its creation for ARPANET, the forerunner of the internet, around 35 years ago. To learn more about what exactly an IP address is and why it is so essential to the working of the internet, read this article.
This system was primarily created as an experimental method of assigning addresses for the nascent internet, since each computer in the network required a unique identifier to be able to communicate with other computers. IPv4's 32-bit addressing system could accommodate around 4.3 billion addresses, which was considered inexhaustible at the time - especially since it was all supposed to be experimental. Of course, no one ever expected the "experiment" to take off and go public as quickly as it did.
It was well-known that IPv4 addresses would run out eventually as more and more computers logged on to the internet. However, no one could have predicted how quickly this would happen, as the explosion of internet-ready portable devices (such as mobile phones and tablets) defeated all attempts by internet engineers to prolong the usability of the old system.
IPv6 was therefore created in 1998 to remedy this situation, as its 128-bit addressing mode instantly makes available a humongous number of unique IP addresses. Specifically, IPv6 allows for 3.4 x 10^38 or 340 trillion trillion trillion devices. This is enough to possibly address every device ever made for the next several decades. Of course, it may so happen that we may yet be underestimating the future growth rate of the internet. However, as of now with this new rollout, the floodgates have been opened to assign IPs to virtually anything, including individual "internet-lights" in your future home that can be remotely turned on or off through the web.
IPv6 also comes with certain other advantages, such as the ability to specify Quality Of Service (QOS) for packets, meaning that data packets can now specify the way they are expected to be handled. For example, streaming videos and multiplayer gaming will become smoother, as their QOS setting will ensure that they get priority over normal internet tasks. Putting this another way, you can have a download running in the background while playing a multiplayer game, and the system will automatically ensure that the download speed reduces so that your game has more bandwidth available to ensure a lag-free experience.
Another critical feature is the built-in data encryption that IPv6 supports, which means your online experience and transactions will get a lot safer. When IPv4 was developed, it was never intended to be used for things like online shopping and romantic chats over Facebook, so the privacy and security of your information was never a primary concern. The internet has come a long way since 1975, and online security is one of the most important things a user needs to ensure. IPv6 comes equipped to successfully deal with this challenge.
All in all, the transition to IPv6 can only mean good things for us internet users. While the process has been officially kicked off, it will take quite a while (perhaps even years) for the entire internet to switch over completely to the new system. As usual, developing countries such as ours will be among the last to make the switch. In the meantime though, you can check out this website to determine if your computer, mobile phone, tablet, or other internet-enabled device is ready for the "big switch".