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Wait ... what's this IPv6 thing about?

Click on the Image for a closer look at the infographic.
Click on the Image for a closer look at the infographic.FOCUS

Something called IPv6 is being gradually tested — and that means the future of the Internet is here. You probably won't even notice that anything's changing, but let's talk about what this mysterious number-letter scramble is all about anyway.

IPv6 — short for Internet Protocol version 6 — is basically a system which will make sure that we can keep letting the Internet grow without worrying that something will break soon.

You see, every machine that's connected to the Internet (including smartphones and tablets) has an IP address — a number like 192.168.1.1 —  assigned to it. Each of those numbers consists of four sets of digits — ranging from 0 to 255 — separated by periods. If you crunch the math, that means there are about 4 billion possible IP addresses. And it turns out we've already managed to use all of those 4 billion possible IP addresses. That means we need a way to create new ones. And that's what IPv6 is — a way to create more numbers to assign to our Internet-connected machines.

That's the gist of things, but the infographic above — kindly created by the folks at a research service called FOCUS — will provide you with a handy dandy look at how everything works.

Oh, and in case you're wondering: The reason everyone's talking about IPv6 right now is that a lot of your favorite companies are giving it a 24-hour test run to make sure that everything will run smoothly once they fully transition to it. (If you want, you can check out the Internet Society's IPv6 site for talk about what's going on behind the scenes.)

But yes, nothing's really changed since the last time we talked about IPv6 except that some folks are giving it a trial run.

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Rosa Golijan writes about tech here and there. She's obsessed with Twitter and loves to be liked on Facebook.