In about five hours, the next version of the Internet will be switched on forever
Companies like Akamai, AT&T, Facebook, Google, and a long list of others will participate.
This new Internet is known as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). If all goes well (and it should) you won't notice anything different right away. But over the next five years and beyond, IPv6 will have a profound effect on our lives.
It is also a pretty big business opportunity for companies that sell network equipment like Cisco, Infoblox, and lots of others.
We needed a new Internet because the old Internet was running out of IP addresses. No new addresses meant no new smartphones, or data centers or Web sites or home offices could come online. There are still billions of people in the world and tens of billions of gadgets, that need to join the Internet.
The new Internet is "trillions upon trillions of times larger" than the old one, says the grandfather of the Internet Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.
But IPv6 doesn't work with the old Internet, IPv4. (And yes, there was an IPv5, but it got scrapped for IPv6.) The two Internets can't talk to each other. Right now, everything still has an IPv4 address, often by sharing it (because there aren't enough of them). Too many shared IPv4 addresses will really mess things up, particularly high-speed realtime multiplayer games and streaming video.
Soon, websites and devices will ONLY be on the new Internet. You won't be able to connect to them unless your computer, network/home router, and ISP are on IPv6, too. But you probably won't have to change anything, because technologies like carrier-grade network-address translation, or CGN, are helping bridge old and new.
Now here's the cool part. All of these new addresses mean that there is virtually no limit on the kinds of things that we can add directly to the Internet. Experts like Cerf predict this will create the "Internet of things" where virtually everything we own has its own Internet address and can can be controlled remotely with an app. This includes your home appliances, keys, wine cellar, the dog's collar—everything.
And it all begins at midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, June 6.
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