Today marks the start of a huge overhaul to the internet’s underlying address system. The master address books for the web are beginning to update to a new format known as IP version 6.
While you and I use names, like Wired.com or Google.com, to move around the web, our computers use numbers — translating from words to numbers so that we don’t have to remember the actual numerical address of the sites we’re visiting.
The bad news that the web grew much faster than expected. The current addressing system, IPv4, will exhaust the pool of possibilities by 2011.
With IPv6 the internet will have what amounts to a never-ending number of addresses. IPv6 offers a number of other advantages over version 4, including simplified routing aggregation and address auto-configuration as well as integrated encryption capabilities.
The downside is that some time in the next decade or so, which is expected timeframe for the full transition to IPv6, you may have to upgrade your router and possibly change your home network setup. Apple’s Mac OS X has supported IPv6 since 2006, and Windows Vista also supports IPv6, but many older systems don’t.