IPv4 vs. IPv6: What are the differences? – News Block

Network Status Properties in the Windows Network Configuration Panel
Jason Fitzpatrick / Instructional Geek

The main difference between IPv4 and the new IPv6 is address availability. IPv6 offers more than 1,000 times the number of unique addresses that IPv4 offers. There are some other technical differences that make IPv6 more secure and flexible, but its speed is usually the same as IPv4.

An Internet Protocol (IP) is a set of rules used to move packets of information across the Internet to their intended destination. There are currently two versions of IP in use: IPv4 and IPv6. We’ll start with how IP addresses work, then we’ll look at what IPv4 and IPv6 are.

IP Addresses: A Quick Summary

When information is sent over the web, it is broken down into parts called data packets. To make sure the data is reassembled in the right place, devices connected to the Internet have IP addresses that tell them where to go.

Every smartphone and desktop computer, for example, has an IP address, but devices like printers and smart speakers also have them because they’re connected to the Internet and receiving data. The network routes the data to a specific IP address, which helps find your device among all others connected to the Internet.

What is IPv4?

IPv4 is the first version of the Internet protocol to be widely used. It stands, unsurprisingly, for Internet Protocol Version 4. It was first released in 1983 and is still in use today.

IP addresses using this protocol are groups of 11 digits separated by periods, called dotted hexadecimal notation. An example of an IPv4 address would be:

Each number in an IP address stores information that tells data packets where to go. Each group of numbers can store one byte of information, and there are four groups in each IPv4 address, for a total of 32 bits of information storage. For that reason, the IPv4 addressing system is known as a 32-bit system.

This system allows for up to 4.3 billion unique addresses, which seems like a lot until you realize how many people and devices are connected to the Internet today. Devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) also need IP addresses. That explosion of use as our lives become increasingly connected to the Internet means that the IPv4 addressing system is running out of space. Enter IPv6.

What is IPv6?

IPv6 is a newer version of the Internet protocol with longer addresses that contain numbers and letters. Although it is newer than version 4, it is not that new: it was first implemented in 1999.

IPv6 addresses have 128 bits of information storage. They are written in colon hexadecimal notation, which means that each group of numbers and letters is separated from the next by a colon (:) instead of a period.

An example IPv6 address would look like this:


This longer addressing system supports 2^128 unique addresses, or 1028 times the number of IPv4. 4.3 billion times 1028 is…enough unique IP addresses that we don’t have to worry about running out of them any time soon.

IPV4 vs. IPV6: How are they different?

The main differences between the two are the length of each IP address and the total number of unique addresses available, but there are additional, more technical variations between the two versions.

Some of the main features of IPv4 include:

  • connectionless protocol
  • Allows the creation of a simple virtual communication layer over multiple devices
  • Requires less memory
  • Easier to remember addresses
  • It is already compatible with millions of devices

The main features of IPv6 include:

  • No NAT (network address translation) allowing end-to-end connectivity at the IP layer
  • Multicast (transmission of a data packet to multiple destinations at once) is included as standard
  • Prevent private address collisions
  • Simpler header format
  • Simplified and more efficient routing overall
  • True quality of service (QoS) or “stream tagging”
  • Integrated security layer (IPsec)
  • Flexible options and extensions
  • Easier administration (no more DHCP)

IPv6 is more secure, more flexible, and allows for a much larger number of unique addresses than IPv4. IPv4 and IPv6 are also written in different formats, IPv4 is made up of numbers separated by periods, and IPv6 addresses are made up of numbers and letters, separated by colons.

Frequent questions

Is IPv4 faster than IPv6?

Most of the time, IPv6 doesn’t seem to be much faster than IPv4. Cloud-based technology company Sucuri tested the two IPs against each other in multiple scenarios and didn’t seem to find much of a difference in speed.

However, there are some situations where IPv6 appears to be faster. Facebook conducted a test in 2015, for example, and found that its website loaded 10-12% faster over IPv6. The sheer number of variables between the two makes it difficult to see which is faster without extensive testing in a highly controlled environment.

What part of the world uses IPv6?

Since it has been around longer, IPv4 is more widely used, but IPv6 adoption is growing as older IP addresses are depleted. According to Google data, about 40% of the world has adopted IPv6 as of June 2023. Google also breaks that data down by country, which varies quite a bit. The US, for example, has over 50% adoption, while Australia has just over 29%, Sweden has 19%, and Argentina has 18.4%.

For more information, check if you must use IPv6 on your home computer or if your server needs IPv6 connectivity.

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