How will the new Internet protocol affect Southeast Idaho? by Jeff Thomason, CE
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How will the new Internet protocol affect Southeast Idaho?
by Jeff Thomason

Originally published June 12, 2012 on Examiner.com

Last Wednesday, June 6, 2012, was World IPv6 Launch Day. It celebrated the start of moving from the current Internet protocol to the new standard. But most people didn’t notice, which is a good thing. It will be a slow and gradual transition and, if done properly, will be a lot smoother than moving from VHS to DVD.

What is an Internet Protocol?

Internet Protocol is a fancy term for the system used to find addresses on the Internet. Currently IPv4 is used. This means every device that is connected to the Internet (computer, server, website, smart phone, tablet, etc.) has a unique IP address or series of four numbers from 0 to 256, and that number allows the device/computer/website to be found.

Think of it like a telephone number. If you want to call your friend, you dial his or her number. But if you have speed dial or a contact list on your phone, you just select the name of your friend, the phone looks up the number and dials it. The same principle works for the Internet. When you type in a domain name (say Examiner.com) that is like selecting your friend’s name. A computer looks up the IP address (like looking for a telephone number) and connects you to that site.

The current system of IP addresses allows for around 4 billion addresses. Last year the final batch of IP addresses were given out, which means soon there won’t be any left for new devices to connect to the Internet. That’s a problem.

What is IPv6?

IPv6 allows for 4 trillion, trillion times as many, which means we probably won’t run out of them anytime this century. But it also means every website, computer, and device will need a new number. Many sites have had versions of their sites with each protocol so they can be accessed with the old or new. Others will follow. It also means browsers, operating systems, routers, and other devices will need to be compatible.

How do I know if I’m ready for IPv6?

If you purchased a computer in the last seven years and keep it up to day, you probably are mostly ready. The standard was developed in the late 90s, and Windows, Mac OS, and major browsers have supported the new system for nearly a decade. Your router and your ISP (the company who you pay every month to connect to the Internet) may not be compatible, although many ISPs in Idaho have support or are adding it. To see if you are ready, visit http://test-ipv6.com/ to test your system. If the test shows you aren’t 100% ready, don’t panic. The transition won’t be complete for several years, and until then you can continue to use the old protocol.