This Time’s for Real: IPv6 Day

January 21, 2012

Last year, the Internet Society organized World IPv6 Day, in order to provide the first global test of the Internet infrastructure changes needed to support the new IPv6 [Internet Protocol, version 6] addressing scheme.   The test was conducted on June 8, 2011, and included several major Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Akamai.  Some minor glitches occurred, but on the whole the test was reasonably successful.  Although the IPv6 changes have been on the Internet standards track for more than a decade, and the reason it is needed is all too clear (the supply of old-style IPv4 addresses is effectively exhausted), uptake of the new standard has been slow.

An article at Ars Technica  reports that another IPv6 Day has been scheduled for June 6, 2012.  Once again, many of the large Internet services will participate: Google, Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!, and Facebook.  In addition, several large ISPs are participating this year, including Comcast, Time-Warner Cable, and AT&T, as well as Free Telecom in France, and XS4ALL in the Netherlands.  Cisco/Linsys and D-Link will also begin enabling IPv6 by default in their home routers.  But the most important difference in World IPv6 Launch is that, this time, it’s not just a test.  The participants will permanently enable IPv6 for their sites and networks.

There will, inevitably, be some configuration errors and other problems that will surface once IPv6 connectivity is being used on an ongoing basis.  But forcing the issue is probably the only realistic way to get people to change.  And, as Ars points out, the Web itself, and  the HTTP protocol, are relatively tolerant of a mixed environment; other services, however, such as Skype, really need to move to IPv6, but have not done much so far.  So there will probably be some inconveniences along the way, but there really is no practical alternative to making the change.

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