What is IPv6?

If you understand phone numbers, you’ll understand this!

IPv6 is a new numbering system for addresses on the Internet. Every computer that accesses the Internet has an address, just like a phone has a phone number. The difference is that every phone has a unique number, where more often than not, the computers on your home network are all sharing a number. Just like if you plugged phones into all the phone jacks in your house, they’d all ring when your houses phone number got called.

For example, Rogers gives your house a single phone number, and gives you a single IP number (referred to technically as an IP address). As said, when you get a phone call, all your phone rings. So how do your computers not all receive the same e-mail and websites all at once when one computer requests them?

It’s because your router takes your main phone number from Rogers, and gives all your “private” numbers. This is how your single IP address from Rogers is shared. For simplicity, you could say that the router labels your 4 laptops in your home as 1, 2, 3 and 4. When 4 makes a request for www.thestar.com, the router remembers 4 made the request. It asks for the website, and when the information is returned, it makes sure it goes to laptop 4. That’s how the problem of “all the phones ringing at once” is avoided.

It isn’t the most elegant solution though, it’s a lot of work for the router to remember what data has to go where. At the same time, it’s not ideal for things like video chatting that require direct connections between computers, because the routers addresses get in the way. So IPv6 was invented.

IPv6 has an unimaginable amount of addresses, and the result is that every computer in your home can get a unique address. Just as if every phone jack in your house had its own unique number. This makes life easier for the router, and it makes things like video chatting and file-transfer easier to do.

It’s just the coolest thing since sliced bread! Unfortunately IPv6 is still nascent in Canada, and most routers don’t support it. You’ll need to upgrade your router to take advantage of IPv6, but every version of Windows since at least Vista supports IPv6, so your older computers will certainly support it!