The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the company in charge of managing IP addresses and domain names—has kicked off its transition to the IPv6 protocol, according to CNet. ICANN says it has assigned IPv6 addresses to six of the world's 13 root server networks, which regroup databases that reference all top-level domain names. Internet service providers have welcomed the development "as part of the continuing evolution of the public Internet."
The switch to IPv6 may not happen overnight. CNet quotes Jay Daley, director of IT for Nominet (the company that handles UK domain names), as saying, "If you really want to see take-up of IPv6, we need the people who run high-volume Web sites to switch over to providing both IPv6 and IPv4 access to them. There are very few sites out there that do that." However, the transition should be accelerated by the increasing scarceness of IPv4 addresses. According to Daley, "It may soon be extremely difficult to get hold of any more IPv4 addresses."
The IPv4 protocol uses 32-bit addressing, which limits the total number of possible addresses to 232, or 4.29 billion. By contrast, IPv6 uses 128-bit addressing, thus enabling a virtually inexhaustible supply of addresses (2128, or 3.4 × 1038 in total). IPv6 addresses are usually presented as eight groups of four hexadecimal digits, for example 2001:0db8:85a3:08d3:1319:8a2e:0370:7344. Luckily for administrators of local networks, IPv6 addresses with adjoined groups of zeroes can be shortened from, say, 2001:0db8:0000:0000:0000:0000:1428:57ab to just 2001:0db8::1428:57ab.