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Change of Address

There's a new Internet protocol in town. Is it time to upgrade?

This story appears in the January 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You may have heard that the world has a shortage of IP Internet addresses. For its part, the United States has largely shrugged off the worry because it has more IP addresses than any other country and isn't in danger of running out for a while. But that doesn't mean we should rest easy. The IP address system currently in use is called Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4). Say hello to its replacement: Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). You'll want to be on a first-name basis with IPv6 because, eventually, your business hardware and software will have to work with it. Companies that deal with the Department of Defense already do. The rest of you can take your time in converting, but when you upgrade networking equipment like routers, check that your new hardware and software is IPv6-compatible. It won't cost you extra, but it will be an important step, especially if you do business overseas with countries that are already moving along the upgrade path. (The latest Apple and Windows OSes have compatibility built-in.)

The IPv6 is touted for its greater security, peer-to-peer possibilities and almost unlimited supply of available addresses. Alex Lightman, chairman of Charmed Technology Inc. in Los Angeles-makers of wearable Internet products-and the North American IPv6 Global Summit, says, "It's one of those things that people don't jump up and down about, but it changes the world like ZIP codes or prefixes on phone numbers." Conceivably, Lightman says, every square foot on the planet could receive its own address.

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