IPv4 and IPv6

See the widget at the right? It’s about the IPv4 depletion and the eventual compulsory usage of IPv6. From the beginning, I’d like to make it clear that I am not an expert in this field and that I have fairly little understanding of how all this works due to the fact that the subject is very technical and networking-based.
UPDATE:  February 3rd 2011: IPv4 has been exhausted.
To begin with, IPv4 means Internet Protocol version 4. IPv6 obviously means Internet Protocol version 6. IPv4 is what the whole world uses right now when connected to the internet. You might be wondering why there is a sudden jump from IPv4 to IPv6 and how come IPv5 is not going to be used instead of IPv6. According to Wikipedia, the reason is because IPv5 (also known as Internet Stream Protocol) “was a family of experimental protocols….” IPv5 is “similar to IPv4, intended to support video and audio.” That is all we need to know about IPv5, unless you’d like to go the geek highway. Either way, do some research if you are interested in learning more. source.
 
Now that IPv5 is out of the way, let’s go back to IPv4 and IPv6. “IPv4 is the first publicly used Internet Protocol and has been in operation since 1981.” source.
“IPv4 provides for approximately 4 billion [IP] addresses” (that is 232) because it uses 32-bit addresses. source.
 
On the other hand, “IPv6 was introduced in 1999 and has been in use since then.”
Also, “IPv6 allows for roughly 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique IP addresses” (that is 2128) because it is using 128-bit addresses. source.
 
As we can see to the right, the widget shows v4 addresses and a red arrow pointing down indicating that IPv4 addresses are being used up very rapidly. This is because the Regional Internet Registries or RIR’s – the “organizations that manage the allocation and registration of Internet number resources within a particular region” – are rapidly allocating IPv4 addresses to ISP’s or internet service providers, governments, etc. The same cannot be said about IPv6 (depletion-wise). We can see the green arrow pointing up for v6 domains indicating that 1,430,403 domains (correct at the time of writing this post) have already adopted version 6 of the internet protocol. Please note that the last point is only based on my understanding and I might be somewhat mistaken, if at all. source.
 
Now that we have a basic understanding of what this is all about, it’s time to compare the look of IPv4 versus IPv6 addresses.
 
An example of an IPv4 address would be 64.233.183.106 which if you put into your browser’s address bar and press enter, you will be taken to http://www.google.com. Alternatively, you can enter 72.30.2.43 in the address bar and will be taken to http://www.yahoo.com. So it’s all nice and dandy so far. Remember, this is for IPv4.
 
Well, what about IPv6? I’ll show you 2 examples of an IPv6 address that is converted from the two aforementioned IPv4 addresses: (Converter)

64.233.183.106 –> IPv6 (in long form):   2002:0:0:0:0:0:40e9:b76a

72.30.2.43         –> IPv6 (in long form):   2002:0:0:0:0:0:481e:22b
 
64.233.183.106 –> IPv6 (in short form):  2002::40e9:b76a
72.30.2.43         –>  IPv6 (in short form):  2002::481e:22b
 
In the above examples, there are rules for shortening IPv6 addresses:
 

3ffe:1900:4545:3:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf

Colons separate 16-bit fields. Leading zeros can be omitted in each field as can be seen above where the field :0003: is written :3:. In addition, a double colon (::) can be used once in an address to replace multiple fields of zeros. For example:
fe80:0:0:0:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf

can be written [as] fe80::200:f8ff:fe21:67cf

Now you might be wondering the following: (source)
 
I am an Internet user. How will IPv4 exhaustion affect me?
As a user of the Internet, you will not really notice the effect of IPv4 exhaustion for the foreseeable future. It will not make any significant difference to you whether you access the Internet using an IPv6 or an IPv4 address. However, in the future there may be parts of the Internet that you cannot reach if the destination is an IPv6-only network and your ISP does not provide its customers with IPv6 addresses.
 
Up to this point, I should have successfully attempted in describing my basic understanding of IPv4 and IPv6 and hopefully you the reader have understood the most part too.
 
Moving on, I wrote this post for two reasons, first of which was to give a basic and somewhat brief explanation as to what IPv4 and IPv6 as well as how the former and the latter compare. The other reason was to shine light on whether IPv4 addresses are really running out that fast. So the big question is: Are IPv4 addresses really running out at an extremely rapid pace or do the Regional Internet Registries want to make the depletion date seem to coincide with the year 2012 nonsense? In other words, is this just another lie? I’ll leave that answer to you my dear reader.
 
Finally, I’d like to leave you with this quote in light of the last point I mentioned:

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. – Winston Churchill

Thank you for reading.
 
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