If your grandmother's Facebook account wasn't a telltale sign that the internet has come of age, here's another: after this week, the internet will run out of new IPv4 addresses. But don't fret, because we're moving on up to IPv6!
For those unfamiliar with what IP addresses do, they serve as the internet's navigation system in many ways. When you type in a URL/domain name to visit a site, it's attached to an IP address which handles all the dirty work of connecting you to the server the website is stored on. Just like the Wall Street Journal says, this is a lot like the moment when phone companies in the US switched to 10-digit numbers.
The IPv4 addresses theoretically range between 4 and 12 digits, have a size of 32-bits and have 4.3 billion possible address combinations. I'm fairly certain all of you have dealt with IPv4 addresses, which look something like this:
184.108.40.206 (or http://220.127.116.11, when entering them into a browser)
With the change to IPv6, addresses will be 128-bits in size and up to 32 digits long, allowing for 340 trillion trillion trillion unique addresses. When it is finally implemented, it will look something like this:
2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334 (or http://[2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334]in a browser)
And with a whole gang of other notation rules, configuring your router is going to be a bitch in the future. And of course, we'll all have to get new routers!
Thankfully, IPv6 is still in its infancy and is still a few years from being put into use on any sort of widespread level. But for a single day in June, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and a couple of other internet giants will switch over to IPv6-compatible servers to test out the new protocol and find out if there are any major kinks in the system. [WSJ]