The researchers who are currently working on the new generation of gears that makes the Internet turn have been on the job for years, but recently, corporate giants such as Microsoft and Apple have been forcing the integration of this new Internet technology in their products: IPv6, the protocol that has already started to power the next generation Internet.
For those of you who want to learn more about IPv6, the folks at ArsTechnica have just published an excellent guide covering the basics of the new protocol.
TCP/IP has served us well since it was born in 1981, but for some time now it has been clear that the IP part has a limitation that makes continued growth of the Internet for decades to come problematic. In order to accommodate a large number of hosts but not waste too much space in the IP packet on overhead, the TCP/IP designers settled on an address size of 32 bits. With 32 bits, it’s possible to express 4,294,967,296 different values. Over half a billion of those are unusable as addresses for various reasons, giving us a total of 3.7 billion possible addresses for hosts on the Internet. As of January 1, 2007, 2.4 billion of those were in (some kind of) use. 1.3 billion were still available and about 170 million new addresses are given out each year. So at this rate, 7.5 years from now, we’ll be clean out of IP addresses; faster if the number of addresses used per year goes up.