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Last week on June 6th was launch day for IPv6 (celebrated on the sixth day of the sixth month). Major ISPs and Internet companies around the world turned on IPv6, the next-generation networking addressing technology.
Every device connecting to the Internet has an address, an IP (internet protocol) address. When the internet was first developed it was based on the 32-bit IPv4 protocol, an address system that provided unique address identifiers to 4.2 billion devices. As the internet has grown, we’ve run out of new addresses. In February 2011, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) released the last of the available IPv4 addresses.
Steven Shankland, senior writer at CNET, explained to NPR last year “Basically, what happened is it stopped raining and snowing in the mountains. But we’re downstream – down the river, and we still have plenty of water right now. At some point in the next year or two, the dry spell is going to come downstream and we’re going to have a drought down where the regular folks are.”
The solution has been to redesign the existing protocol to enable much larger capacity. The next generation addressing scheme is called IPv6. It is based on 128 bits has the capacity to address 3.4 x 1038 addresses, expanding the internet addressing capability by many trillion.
Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technology officer of ISOC, said that “The internet functions with regular, business operations on IPv6. Participating websites have turned IPv6 on for good, access providers already have significant IPv6 traffic on their networks, and equipment manufacturers are shipping with IPv6 on by default. IPv6 is the new normal.”
The transition to IPv6 has begun. Zhang Xiaoqiang, China’s Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said that “By the end of 2015, the overall system will be established, so that IPv4 can be smoothly transferred to the IPv6 system. We will gradually halt allocating IPv4 addresses to users as for the time being.”
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo along with 3000 other large websites have already turned on IPv6 for their main sites and will run it in parallel with IPv4. Gartner predicts that by 2015, 17 percent of users worldwide will use IPv6, and 28 percent of new Internet connections will be IPv6. Five home router vendors including Cisco and D-Link are now shipping home routers with IPv6 turned on by default.
Interested in seeing if you’re already using IPv6? This site provides a report of your current protocol usage: http://test-ipv6.com/.