IPv4 vs IPv6: The differences between two that you should know today

Ruheni Mathenge Last updated: September 14, 2022 Read time: 11 minutes Disclosure

What makes IPv6 different than IPv4? Will we be forced to switch protocols enabling us to connect to the internet? Learn all there is to know about IPv4 vs. IPv6 in this article.

Sneak peek at IPv4 and IPv6

Computers and other devices communicate on the internet via a specific set of numerical identifiers called IP (Internet Protocol) address. Today, there are two primary functional IPs – IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) and IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6). IPv4 was launched in 1981, offering 32-bit 4.3 billion IP addresses. However, the limited number of IPs led to the invention of IPv6 addresses that employ more numbers and thus offered more 128-bit IP addresses than IPv4. Although IPv6 is more advantageous than IPv4, the world’s online traffic routes via IPv4 technology. Read this guide to learn more about IPv4 vs. IPv6 internet protocols and how each works.

An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a set of numbers that enables computers and other devices to communicate on the internet. That means without the IP address; it is not possible to send or receive information online.

Currently, there are two main IP types – IPv4 and IPv6. What is the difference between the two? How does each function? This article will compare IPv4 and IPv6 in detail and show how you can protect your online connections.

What is IPv4?

Internet protocol version 4 (IPv4) was introduced in 1981 as the fourth internet protocol version. However, despite the advent of IPv6, most of the world’s traffic is routed through IPv4. The protocol uses a 32-bit address that can support more than 4 billion IP addresses.

Usually, an IPv4 address contains four numbers ranging from 0 to 255, separated with full stops. Most likely, your current IP address is an IPv4 address.

Here is a typical example of an IPv4 address

193.165.1.1

Pros:

  • Easier to read and remember
  • Most web pages use IPv4
  • Long-standing technology

Cons:

  • Subnetting problems
  • Fewer IPv4 address

IPv4 existence for around 40 years presents a significant issue. The limit was set at 4.3 billion addresses, which seemed more than sufficient in the early 80s. After that, however, the addresses began running out as the internet grew exponentially. This prompted engineers to start developing more IP addresses.

Currently, most people use multiple devices to access the internet, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. Also, as the Internet of Things continues to grow, more IP addresses will be needed than ever before. So, developers had to invent a more permanent solution.

What is IPv6?

Internet version 6 (IPv6) is the sixth version of the internet protocol. It was developed to address the problem of shrinking IPv4 addresses. However, the functionality is similar to IPv4, where it provides a numerical IP address required to establish an internet connection.

Generally, IPv6 address is made of more numbers than IPv4 address, making it possible to develop more addresses than IPv4. For example, it uses a 128-bit address and can produce up to decillion IP addresses, while IPv4 can only provide 4.3 billion addresses.

IPv6 IP addresses contain eight groups of hexadecimal numbers separated with colons instead of full stops like IPv4 addresses.

Here is an example of an IPv6 address:

2004:0db7:81a3:0000:0000:4a2e:0370:7327

Pros: