What is an IPv4?

The Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) is the fourth version of the standard primarily used for identifying devices on a network. This protocol has been in existence since 1983 and currently powers around 94% of global internet traffic. However, alongside its numerous advantages, IPv4 is plagued by many limitations. An IPv4 IP address usually follows the 192.0.1.126 format. The following explores key details about IPv4 and what the future holds for this internet protocol.

Parts of IPv4

IPv4 has three distinct parts, namely;

Network

The IPv4 network part indicates the category that is assigned to the network.

Host

This is assigned to every host and is a unique identification for machines on a network.

Subnet number

The subnet number is a non-obligatory IPv4 part. For instance, where there are multiple hosts on a local network, subnet numbers are assigned to each host.

Characteristics of IPv4

Here are the top characteristics of IPv4.

  • Networks must be designed either manually or via DHCP.
  • IPv4 offers 32-bit IP addresses.
  • There are approximately 4.3 billion IPv4 IP addresses available globally.
  • It offers Unicast, broadcast, and multicast IP address styling.
  • It supports Virtual Length Subnet Mask (VLSM)

Compatibility of IPv4 with IPv6

IPv6, which is designed to replace IPv4 eventually, is yet to do that. IPv4 still powers most of the web. Both protocols use CIDR for handling their network and host addressing, but they are not interchangeable.

The biggest drawback is that both protocols cannot communicate with each other. So, an IPv4-only device cannot connect directly to an IPv6-only device. However, individual devices can currently support both IPv4 and IPv6. Dual-stack IP, for instance, allows a single router, server, or switch to process either IPv4 or IPv6 addresses.

Advantages and Limitations of IPv4

Advantages

  • IPv4 permits encryption for privacy and security.
  • Addressing in IPv4 permits flawless encoding.
  • It is easy to attach multiple devices across an outsized network.
  • IPv4 currently offers decent speeds. However, it will be considerably slower than IPv6 in the future.

Limitations

  • Security features are non-obligatory.
  • Internet routing can be inefficient with IPv4.
  • High system management costs.
  • Labor intensive to manage IPv4.
  • IPv4’s 32-bit nature limits total IP addresses to 4.3 billion.

How to determine whether a website uses IPv4

The Domain Name System supports both the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols. Since the DNS stores both IP addresses, it can seamlessly respond to requests with either protocol. To determine which protocol is being utilized by a website, you could use a free DNS lookup tool to check the website’s records. If you find an A record, the website uses an IPv4 address. Similarly, an AAAA record will be present if the website uses the IPv6 protocol. It’s also common for many websites to use both IPv4 and IPv6.

The finite nature of IPv4 and its other limitations mean that it is bound to be replaced by another protocol. IPv6 is the successor to IPv4 thanks to its 128-bit design and how it addresses some of the other limitations of IPv4. However, IPv6 is still a work in progress, and the lack of communication with IPv4 means it will take a while to be fully adopted.