Just in time for explosive growth of mobile phones and The Internet of Things, the next-generation Net standard called IPv6 is catching on, now accounting for more than 3 percent of Google's traffic.
Google's measurement is based on the number of users per day using IPv6. Although 3 percent is a small fraction, it's a very large number in absolute terms.
The pace of adoption is accelerating: It took 11 months to get from 1 percent to 2 percent, but only five months to get from 2 percent to 3 percent, said Dan York of the Internet Society, a standards and advocacy group that's been pushing for years to make IPv6 a reality, in a blog post Monday.
Today's global networks most often use Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), but it's long been clear that its 32-bit numeric system simply doesn't have enough room for all the devices people want to connect to the Net. IPv6, with 128-bit addressing, offers an inconceivably large number of addresses.
That eases the problems that network administrators and Internet service providers face trying to share a single IP address among multiple devices, for example with an approach called network address translation (NAT). So why not use IPv6 everywhere? Because it's not compatible with IPv4, which has meant a lot of trouble and expense moving to IPv6.
But the shift is happening. On June 6, 2012, online giants including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft permanently enabled IPv6, meaning that people with IPv6 connections will get IPv6 versions of those Web sites.
"We recently predicted IPv6 will get to 10 percent deployment this year, and while that may be an aggressive prediction, it is very clear that IPv6 is no longer something that will be mythically deployed 'some day,'" York said.
IPv4 has 4.3 billion addresses (2 to the 32nd power, or 4,294,967,296, to be precise). That may sound like a lot, but there are ever more devices to connect to the Internet, and many of the IPv4 addresses are inaccessibly squirreled away by organizations that got large tracts of them earlier in the history of the Internet.
IPv6, in contrast, offers 340 undecillion addresses (2 to the 128th power, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456, to be precise).
That large number means it facilitates the arrival of the Internet of things -- the idea that just about everything with an electronic pulse can be connected to the Net. With IPv6, it's much easier to attach address information to data packets.