Any device that connects to the internet has what’s known as an “IP address,” or “Internet Protocal address;” think of it as the digital version of your home address. Just as your house needs an address so that people and mail know how to get there, so too does your computer/smartphone/other device. However, rather than something like “123 Main Street, Anytown, USA,” your computer’s address comes – or used to come until today – in the form of 12 numbers, separated into 4 groups of three numbers separated by periods (“123.456.789.012,” for example). Every device in the world has a unique address in this format; it’s how the device is able to send and receive information, just like sending and receiving mail or packages to and from your home. This is known as the IPv4 format, since there are 4 groups of numbers (or “octets,” as they’re called).
So what is IPv6, then? Well, even though there are a heck of a lot of number combinations when using 12 places, there are also a heck of a lot of internet-connected devices out there in the world – so many, in fact, that we’re really, really close to using up all of the possible combinations of numbers already. That’s where the new protocol, IPv6, comes in. This new protocol enables computers and internet-enabled devices to use a new address that has 6 “octets” instead of four (“123.456.789.012.345.678,” for example). Clearly, this makes millions of new IP addresses available for public consumption and ensures that we – and all of our toys – can stay connected for the foreseeable future.