More IP addresses added in Internet upgrade

June 6, 2012 6:26:33 PM PDT
On Wednesday a new Internet began. The change will be subtle, but a new address system will make the web faster, and it will enable us to do things that were not possible until now.

"In order to move forward, people really have to engage and really start getting used to this thing. Because it's coming!" said Eli Dart from Energy Sciences Network.

The "thing" is a new ID system for the Internet. Imagine that the world ran out of phone numbers and you needed to share your number with strangers. When you're not using it, they take it; when you need it, you take it back.

The Internet has been doing that for years, because it's running out of numbers. That has slowed the web and stifled innovation.

Every device online requires a unique address, like a phone number. It looks like this: 199.181.132.250, and it's called an IP Address - IP for "Internet Protocol".

When the founding fathers developed the system, they created a pool of numbers greater than the population of the world at the time (4.3 billion combinations). So what happened?

"Look, in general at the growth in the number of Internet-connected devices," says Dart. "That's going to tell you the story. My phone has an address. The laptop has several, depending on where I am."

Every connected TV has one, as well as workstations, security cameras, and utility meters.

"I have a bunch in my home network. Easily 10," said Dart.

A modern automobile alone has a half dozen Internet-enabled parts. Working for the Energy Sciences Network, Dart knows of research that is hindered because there aren't enough addresses for all the sensors. Those are called IPv4. Finally replacing it is the new IPv6 -- good for 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses.

The next time you visit Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other major sites, they will be using it. Smaller businesses will convert slowly because it requires investment in time and equipment. You might see a message that says your browser is not set up to use the new numbers. Fear not. The two versions will coexist for a while longer.

"The main thing that we're going to get out of IPv6 adoption is that we get to keep the Internet as we know it. We're not going to run out of address space, and the Internet will continue to be a platform for innovation of new services," said Dart.

Browsing will be zippier and you will need to share the address of your toys a little less often.


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