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IPv4 vs. IPv6: What's the Difference?

IPv4 vs. IPv6: What's the Difference?

Every device you have that's connected to the internet or a local network, whether that is your smartphone, PC, laptop, or tablet, has its own IP address. Short for internet protocol, your IP serves as an identifier that other networks can use to recognize your devices and freely transfer information.

Who Assigns IPs, and What are the Different Types?

IP addresses are assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, a division of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN. Once assigned, an IP address facilitates the communication between devices and the internet by connecting to an online network. Your activity will go through your ISP and route back to you through your IP address. Your IP address can also change; this can be done manually or automatically through a VPN.

Without IP addresses, the internet could not tell routers, websites, and computers apart, creating a non-functioning mess of the online world. When we talk about the size and function of an IP, there are two primary types of addresses: IPv4 and IPv6.

What is IPv4 and IPv6?

What is IPv4 and IPv6?

IPv4 and IPv6 are the two most common internet protocols used by devices worldwide, each with its own distinct set of traits and functions.

What is IPv4?

An IPv4 is a 32-bit address that uses a numerical method to give your device an individual internet identity. The bits within this address are separated with a period, and each address offers 12 distinct header fields. IPv4 has several features that set it apart, including:

  • Broadcast support
  • Checksum fields
  • Supports variable length subnet mask
  • Uses Address Resolution Protocol to map MAC addresses

An IPv4 will also use a connectionless protocol and allow for creating superficial virtual communication layers. This can work across an array of devices, with IPv4s using a smaller amount of memory due to their lower bit size. IPv4 is the older protocol, meaning that it is more widely used. The number of available IPv4 addresses is limited; with only 32 available bits, it will eventually run out of available addresses to utilize.

What is IPv6?

An IPv6 is a 128-bit address that uses an alphanumeric addressing method to provide your device with a unique identifier. Each one of its 128 bits is separated with a colon. Plus, there are only eight header fields instead of the 12 an IPv4 contains. IPv6 has a few features that distinguish it from IPv4, including:

  • No broadcast support
  • No checksum fields
  • No Variable Length Subnet Mask support
  • Utilizes Neighbor Discovery Protocol to map MAC address

An IPv6 will also use routing infrastructure, hierarchical addressing, and a stateful and stateless configuration. This IP address also supports Quality of Service and is the perfect protocol for neighboring mode interaction.

What is the Difference Between IPv6 and IPv4?

What is the Difference Between IPv6 and IPv4?

There are several differences between IPv4 vs. IPv6, starting with the size of the address. An IPv4 uses 32-bits, while an IPv6 uses 128. This means that there are far more available combinations of IPv6 addresses, and the number of IPv4 devices will eventually begin to dwindle. Despite this larger address size, IPv6 IPs have a faster header bandwidth due to the smaller utilized header size.

IPv4 vs IPv6: Major Differences

  • IPv4 is a numerical address, while IPv6 is alphanumeric
  • IPv4 is a multicast address type, while IPv6 is anycast
  • IPv6 uses no address masking
  • IPv4 uses 12 header fields, while IPv6 uses 8
  • IPv4 requires routes to be configured and assigned, while the configuration is optional for IPv6
  • IPv4 supports VLSM, while IPv6 does not
  • Routing Information Protocol does not support IPv6, which uses static routes
  • Networks must be configured manually with IPv4, while IPv6 has autoconfiguration
  • Simple Network Management Protocol, which is used for system management, is not supported by IPv6
  • IPv4 uses IN-ADDR.ARPA DNS domain, while IPv6 uses IP6.ARPA DNS domain
  • IPv4 uses broadcast ARP for MAC resolution, while IPv6 uses Multicast Neighbor Solicitation

IPv6 addresses can also improve routing performance, primarily due to their use of newer processing options. IPv6 also supports layer security, jumpgram, mobile IP, and many other options that IPv4 may not support. An IPv6 address also offers faster network security speeds because it lacks a network-address translation. Because a carrier can't give IPv4 addresses to every one of its subscribers (due to the limited number), the support for IPv6 is more comprehensive. Sites tend to load faster, and for those looking to surf at higher speeds, IPv6 tends to win out over IPv4.

As the Newer Protocol, IPv6 is the Way of the Future

Because of the limited number of remaining IPv4 addresses and the advantages that IPv6 provides, all devices will eventually use an updated address form. Both IPv4 and IPv6 currently exist together throughout the internet, though there are specific compatibility issues that cause problems between the two. This won't be a problem at some point in the near future; before long, IPv6 (or an even newer version of internet protocol) will be the most commonly used IP address.

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