Berlin: Many web surfers
don't know it, but the introduction of new internet address
standards might change the way they get online.
Since the supply of usable addresses governed by the IPv4 standard
(internet protocol, version 4) has been exhausted, IPv6 has now
been introduced. This will allow a previously impossible variety
of addresses, says Christoph Meinel, a professor at Germany's
Hasso Plattner Institute.
But what does this change mean for everyday surfers? Here's an
Why are IP addresses necessary?
In order for internet-capable devices to share information, they
need a unique machine-readable address. These addresses are
assigned based on a standard of internet protocols.
But, since humans have a hard time remembering these strings of
numbers, websites are also labelled with domain names, like
www.google.com. When these addresses are typed into browsers,
special servers translate them into IP addresses for the benefit
of the computers.
What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?
Until now, IP addresses have been assigned in blocks of four
numbers with up to three numerals each: 220.127.116.11, for
example. The new IPv6 standard won't convert the numbers into the
decimal system, rather a hexadecimal system, recognized by its
combination of numbers and letters.
The new standard can be recognized by its eight blocks, separated
by colons - 2001:db8:0:0:0:0:1428:57ab, for example.
Will my computer be able to process the new standard?
In most cases, yes. But an IPv6-capable operating system is a
prerequisite. Those can be found in any Windows system post Vista.
There are ways to install the functionality into Windows XP
systems. Mac systems starting at 10.2 and Linux, in general, can
Will my DSL access support the new standard?
In most cases, no. Contemporary routers, like the ones provided by
telecommunications companies when DSL packages are ordered, are
still set for the old IPv4 standard. In some cases, IPv6 can be
added with a firmware update. When purchasing a new router, make
sure it supports IPv6.
Should I anticipate problems during the transition to the new
Generally, no. Internet use shouldn't be affected after the switch
- at least that's what providers are promising. Those providers
have modified their network so that data packets reach all users
whether they are using IPv4 or IPv6 standards, a method called
dual-stack application. Alternatively, software solutions, like
those based on tunnel technology, can be used.