-- By 2016, Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) predicts there will be three networked devices per person on earth. We're not just talking about your smartphone and tablet; your washing machine, wristwatch and car will be connected too. Each of those connected things needs an IP address. Then there's all the items that won't necessarily connect to the Internet themselves, but will be communicating with other wired gadgets.
-- Developers are putting chips into eyeglasses, clothes and pill bottles. Each one of those items needs an IP address as well. The current IP standard, IPv4, was structured like this: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, with each "xxx" able to go from 0 to 255. IPv6 expands that so each "x" can be a 0 through 9 or "a" through "f," and it's structured like this: xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx. (Yes, there was an IPv5, but it was a streaming multimedia standard developed in the late 1970s that never really caught on). The changeover is akin to when the U.S. telephone system handled soaring growth by increasing the digits in each telephone number -- except for one crucial difference.
-- More than 2,000 websites, including Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), Facebook (FB), Bing, Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500), AOL (AOL) and Netflix (NFLX), as well as a number of network operators such as AT&T (T, Fortune 500), Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500), Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC, Fortune 500), have begun enabling IPv6. But they'll all need to continue to support IPv4 until the entire world upgrades. That will take years.
-- There have been some grumblings about cyberattackers getting ready to pounce on Wednesday, taking advantage of potential holes in a new technology. But a year ago, on June 8, 2011, all those participating networks and sites turned on IPv6 for a day-long test run without a hitch. They reverted to IPv4 the next day. This time, the change is permanent. It'll be a slow transition, but it's a crucial one that will support the Internet's current rate of expansion far into the future.
-- First Published: June 6, 2012: 5:13 AM ET
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