The next generation Internet Protocol: IPv6 the enabler of a larger internet
The last days of IPv4
When the internet was originally designed in 1970, their founders seemed that is would be highly unlikely that the IP address space would become an issue overtime. Because with the current IP address scheme (also known as IPv4) it is possible to allocate almost 4.3 billion IP addresses. Which seemed to be more than enough space at that time. But despite this incredible number they could not have overseen the massive growth of the internet in the late 90s. During the last decade the number of Internet users has grown even more (see image below).
To anticipate on these space issues of IPv4, the IPv6 scheme was introduced in 1996 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). IPv6 will be able to hold an impressive amount of: 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 unique IP addresses. However, IPv4 is still operational and used to facilitate the internet today. Actually the last block of IPv4 addresses space has been allocated in February 2011.
Transition from IPv4 to IPv6
This year an actual transition has been set in motion to migrate the internet protocol from IPv4 to IPv6. But the problem is that over the years the internet has become quite complex, and it is challenging to coordinate such a migration as it involves governments, enterprises, manufacturers, internet service providers (ISPs) and even individuals. It will require a collaborative effort from many users. To encourage this, an initiative was launched on June 6th which announced the beginning of the official transition of internet to IPv6: http://www.worldipv6launch.org/. However, the actual transition will probably take several years, because many governments and enterprises are still hesitant to invest in their network infrastructure to make it IPv6 compatible. China and other connected Asian countries, have heavily invested in IPv6 deployment, and European companies transacting with Chinese businesses in that region will probably need to head the line of IPv6 transition in this country.
The future is IPv6
At any rate, the transition from Ipv4 to IPv6 is essential for the growth of the internet. If the transition does not happen in the near future, newly produced internet devices which will not be able to connect to the internet because of the lack of available IPv4 addresses. On the other hand, when this transition has been completed, techniques like NAT (Network Address Translation) would become obsolete. Also, smart phones, digital cameras, cars, refrigerators, microwaves, TVs, and many more devices will be able to seamlessly communicate which each other in the future.