IPv4 vs. IPv6 showdown: understand their difference

Edward G. | July 20, 2020

IPv4 vs. IPv6 defines a significant change in today’s internet. Although this debate and shift have been relevant for a while, some are not aware of it. The truth is, IPv4 offers an insufficient number of unique IP addresses. So, it’s successor (IPv6) aims to replace it. Still, they both play a vital role in the internet’s evolution. So, how can the IPv4 vs. IPv6 debate reshape the internet as we know it? Will it affect you personally, or improve the internal processes that are invisible to regular netizens? Let’s find out.

IPv4 vs. IPv6: a brief history recap

Internet Protocol addresses allow internet-connected devices to communicate with each other over the web. Phones, computers, even smartwatches: all of them have private IP addresses. Every data packet transmitted over the internet contains two IPs. One belongs to you (devices), and the other to receivers (for instance, websites). Hence, IP addresses are crucial when it comes to verifying and recognizing connections. The problem is that the internet does not have enough IP addresses. Hence, this is when the IPv4 vs. IPv6 dilemma started to emerge.

Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) appeared in the early 1980s. Until now, IPv4 is still usable for the vast majority of the internet. The problem is that IPv4 has a limit of 4.3 billion unique IP addresses. In today’s era of IoT devices, IPv4 can no longer support such a load. So, IPv6 steps in to help its ancestor and provide more IP addresses.

Key factors in IPv4 vs. IPv6

One of the key differences between IPv4 vs. IPv6 is the way IP addresses look. IPv4 uses 32-bit numbers: 4 individual numerical values that can only range from to In contrast, IPv6 addresses use 128-bit numbers that can be both numerical and alphabetical (something like 2001:bd0:1:012a3:0:45e6:7:8). Hence, instead of 4.3 billion, the new protocol brings around 340 undecillion unique IP addresses to the table.

In addition to increasing the supply of IP addresses, IPv6 addressed other IPv4’s shortcomings. The resolution of IPv4 vs. IPv6 brought a lot of efficiency, functionality, and security in general. IPv6 includes simplifications in data packet transmission, faster routing functionality, support for peer-to-peer networking, and simultaneous connectivity to several networks for standalone devices.

The security point of IPv4 vs. IPv6 is on the IPv6’s end as it offers end-to-end encryption. In IPv6, the implementation of Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is inbuilt. IPSec follows a series of security protocols for authentication and data integrity. Surprisingly, the IPv4 protocol is also capable of supporting IPSec. However, it’s up to the network providers to integrate it and end-users to use it.

IPv4 vs. IPv6: the final switch

The migration to IPv6 is progressing, although very slowly. It can take decades to achieve. According to Google, there’s over 30% of IP traffic coming from IPv6 connectivity among its users worldwide.

The final winner of the IPv4 and IPv6 battle depends on Internet Service Providers, mobile carriers, large enterprises, and data centers. The biggest factor holding back the integration is the cost. Replacing legacy technologies takes a long time, and the upgrade requires a lot of resources. Despite the price tag, the digital world gradually moves towards the more efficient net model.

Are IPv6 and VPNs compatible?

Most VPN providers operate solely on IPv4, and very few of them support IPv6. If you connect to a VPN and visit an IPv6-based website, your request resolves to an IPv6 DNS server. It is outside of the secure VPN network. Such a scenario makes you susceptible to IPv6 leak, which leaves your original IP and associated location visible.

Luckily, Atlas VPN is one of the VPNs that support both. Our leak protection mechanisms will secure your traffic amidst the profound internet change. Be prepared, try Atlas VPN, and stay safe online.

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.



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