IPv4 vs IPv6 Proxy: Things You Need to Know
Should you start using IPv6 proxies? Not quite yet.
Today, IPv4 is still the dominant type of IP address. If you’re buying proxies, they’ll most likely use the IPv4 protocol. But more providers are starting to offer IPv6 proxy networks, and their numbers will only increase in the future. This article will show you how the two proxy types differ, and how choosing one over the other affects you as a proxy user.
- The Basics of IP Addresses
- What Is an IPv4 Proxy?
- What Is an IPv6 Proxy?
- IPv4 Proxy vs IPv6 Proxy – Which Is Better?
“IP” stands for “Internet Protocol”.
An IP address is a string of numbers that identifies devices connected to the internet. You get an IP whenever you use a landline, Wi-Fi, mobile, and even local connection. Without an IP address, devices on the internet wouldn’t be able to communicate with one another.
For example, your phone gets an IP address when you use your carrier’s 4G network; its IP changes when you return home and connect to your home Wi-Fi.
An IP address carries some information about you. It can show if you’re using a home connection and your approximate location.
“v4” simply means that it’s the fourth version of the IP protocol. The first three versions were for testing purposes; the public internet started with IPv4. Don’t ask me why.
An IPv4 address looks like this:
192.168.17.40. It includes numbers only, and each of the four parts can have numbers from 0 to 255. That means there can be 4,294,967,296 unique IP addresses in total.
IPv4 has one problem: everything’s connected to the internet nowadays, and four billion addresses aren’t nearly enough. We’ve had this issue for over a decade now, but IPv4 remains the most used protocol by a large margin. This is good for proxy users; I’ll soon explain why.
But first, let’s clarify one misconception – the myth of virgin proxies. “Virgin” means that a proxy IP hasn’t been used yet. But with so few IPv4 addresses, it’s almost impossible to find truly blank-slate proxy IPs. And it’s getting harder every day. So, this term is a marketing gimmick, at least when it comes to IPv4 proxies.
The shortage of IPs meant that internet service providers had to find clever ways to identify their users. Mobile networks came relatively late to the game, so they’re using one of such methods. Called Carrier Grade Network Translation (CGNAT) technology, it’s what makes mobile proxies so valuable.
In a nutshell, CGNAT shares one IP address with hundreds or even thousands of users at a time. If a website bans such an IP, it risks disabling access to many people. It’s a large part of the reason why mobile proxies are considered the hardest to block. The other part is that many popular proxy targets like Instagram and Facebook are primarily aimed at mobile users.
An IPv6 proxy is an IP address of a datacenter or residential device using the IPv6 protocol.
As you might have guessed, “v6” signifies the sixth version of the IP protocol. It was officially launched in 2012, in efforts to solve the IP shortage.
An IPv6 address looks like this: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334. It’s much longer and includes numbers as well as letters A-F (the hexadecimal system). There can be around 340 undecillion unique IPv6 addresses, so we won’t run out of them anytime soon.
Despite the obvious need for IPv6, the protocol is nowhere near IPv4 in adoption. After all these years. How come?
Well, there’s one good reason: it’s not compatible with IPv4. So, the whole internet would have to upgrade to IPv6: all the ISPs, data centers, cloud providers, and so on. Turns out, many find it easier to invent clever workarounds instead.
While the situation has been improving, 71% of Alexa 500 websites still don’t support IPv6. The list of unsupported sites includes Amazon, Twitter, Reddit, and Yelp.
The answer is clear: right now, IPv4 is better for sure.
It’s not only because IPv4 proxies support all websites, scrapers, and applications. Most IPv6 proxy providers offer datacenter IPs – and when there’s trillions of them, websites don’t think twice about banning them in huge numbers.
Remember: a “virgin” IPv6 proxy carries much less weight than some marketers would like you to think.