For 25 years, the internet has survived with room for just over four billion IP addresses on IPv4. At the time of its inception, IPv4 was created to enable experimental research and provide government networks. The idea of a globally commercial internet was unheard of; so from the start the limit of this resource was recognized.

An IPv4 address is a 32-bit sequence of four addresses made up of digits and separated by periods (e.g.: 127.0.0.1). When you consider that each internet-connected device needs its own IP address, you begin to understand why 4.3 billion addresses pose a dangerous shortage in such a tech-dependent world. Every tablet, smartphone, video game system, computer, printer, soda machine, etc. needs its own number, just like every car on the road needs its own unique license plate.

On June 6, 2012, “World IPv6 Launch Day” introduced Internet Protocol version 6. Internet giants the likes of Google and Facebook switched to IPv6, and major internet service providers, home networking equipment manufacturers, and web companies banded together to enable IPv6 for their products and services. According to Regional Internet Registries, the company that manages the allocation and registration of Internet number resources for five major regions, two of those regions (Europe/ Middle East and Asia) had already been depleted of IPv4 addresses before the big day. Introducing IPv6 on a global level was the key to connect more web users and let the internet grow.

IPv6 was drafted in 1995. IPv5 was an experimental protocol developed in the 1980s that was never widely deployed; therefore, the next number in line was 6. IPv6 holds room for 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses. An IPv6 address is much more complex than an IPv4 address; eight segments separated by semi-colons and comprised of letters and digits allow for unique 128-bit sequences. It looks something like this: 3ffe:1902:4646:3:201:f8ff:fe21:68cf.

IPv4 is still in use today, but because of the internet’s widespread presence, it was necessary to increase the supply of addresses. Having so much extra room for addresses will allow home users to receive blocks of addresses sufficient to number multiple networks and thousands of devices, contrary to receiving just one home IP address. A year after World IPv6 Launch Day, global use of IPv6 has more than doubled. It is likely that over half of the internet’s users worldwide will be IPv6-connected in less than 6 years.