While most people think of internet traffic in terms of domain names, it’s actually based on numbers. IPv4 uses approximately four billion numbers that point to named websites, and servers convert these names to IP numbers. However, traffic doesn’t flow directly from one of these IP numbers to the destination; it’s generally routed through multiple servers along the way. Many of these major servers have already been upgraded, so most users likely use this new protocol along the way.
When it comes to end users, most still use IPv4 for finding websites. However, these IPv4 addresses are often converted to IPv6 addresses along the way, meaning that most traffic, even on upgrades networks, relies on both protocols. This hybrid approach serves as an effective bridge, and the ubiquity of IPv4 means that this infrastructure will likely remain in place for years to come. Exactly when the new protocol will reach critical mass is difficult to predict, but legacy support is expected to remain for some time.
Many of the touted benefits of upgrading are based on the exhaustion of IPv4 address and ensuring that the internet is able to handle increasing traffic in the future. However, IPv6 also supports a number of features that are great for internal business networks. While adoption among businesses is still relatively low, new networks often deprecate IPv4 to take advantage of the security and flexibility upgraded support offers. To end users, this transition is seamless, so you might be using the new protocol at work without even knowing it.
Web hosting providers have moved to support IPv6 in a big way, and most offer full support. While users often focus on their IPv4 addresses, hosts often provide a corresponding IPv6 version as well, and this support is often provided behind the scenes. Even if you haven’t consciously upgraded your website, there’s a good chance it’s serving traffic over the new protocol.
A major design goal for IPv6 was to make the process as transparent to end users as possible, and the transition has largely met this goal. While some users might want to upgrade, most of the switch will be handled behind the scenes. However, end users should know that much of this behind-the-scenes work has been accomplished, and more traffic than they realize is probably being sent over the new protocol. For more info, visit the resources at BlueCat.