If you thought switching corporate IT systems was hard…

Then imagine what it’d be like for the whole of planet earth to switch from one internet platform to another.

Wired explains it well here.

The problem:

The data-delivery scheme used by the vast majority of the net, known as Internet Protocol version 4, uses a series of four numbers (each ranging from 0 to 255) to uniquely identify every machine that’s directly connected to the internet. That gives a total of about 4 billion possible IP addresses. These numbers, such as, underlie the more user-friendly domain name system, which uses URLs like http://www.wired.com.

IP addresses are like telephone digits, in that there’s a finite number of them. Unlike the telephone system, however, there’s no equivalent to the 718 or 346 area codes to expand to when Manhattan’s 212 is full. It’s as if every possible area code from 001 to 999 had already been utilized or reserved.

The solution:

When that happens, those companies have a choice. They can switch to the next generation of the Internet Protocol, known as IPv6, which has 2128 available addresses. That’s enough to give 5×1028 addresses to every human being on Earth — no danger of running out of addresses there.

The solution with a problem:

But many popular sites, such as Wired’s website, don’t yet have IPv6 capability.  In fact, less than 0.25 percent of the internet is wired to work with IPv6, which means that if you’re using IPv6, there’s not a lot of web content to browse.

Supporting IPv6 also means buying or upgrading network equipment, an expense most companies will want to avoid as long as possible.


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