Jul 5, 2011

Google, Facebook Jump on IPv6 Bandwagon


Major web companies like Google and Facebook are gearing up to test what could be the future of the Internet. The current pool of Internet addresses that is used for directing traffic and assigning websites is nearing the point of exhaustion, but the world has been slow to adopt the more robust and expansive IPv6.
For 24 hours, websites that have more than one billion unique hits a day intend to join various distribution companies in enabling IPv6 for their main services, as a way of testing the technology and see if it is ready for the potential billions of new users expected to connect to the Internet in the next decade. Apart from Google and Facebook, Yahoo, Limelight Networks and Verisign are also taking part in the large-scale test.
This is set to be the first real test of IPv6 on a global scale “in the wild.” Previous tests conducted in Germany and Norway did show optimistic results, but were in smaller or more controlled environments, not exposed to the entirety of the Internet.
According to estimates from the companies, only 2,000 users out of all of their daily traffic should experience any problems, but the test does aim to spot any problems that have so far been unidentified or undetected, as well as raise public awareness of the need to change.
Internet registries manage the registration of domain names and functions as the backbone of how the Internet works, but as more websites emerge, less IP addresses are available to be assigned to their domains and URLs. The change to IPv6 would increase the available number of addresses four billion times the current number, but only a small percentage of current users or traffic uses IPv6.
Publishers and Internet service providers have played a waiting game on which part of the industry is willing to risk the first move, instead focusing on ways to work around current limitations and adopting translation services and address-sharing. However, the prospect of large numbers of IPv6 users coming online, particularly in areas in the developing world where IPv4 is not widespread and can easily be phased out, has begun to spur some of the larger organizations into taking the plunge.
“What’s at stake is the future scalability and utility of the Internet,” says Matthew Ford, a programmer for the Internet Society.
The Internet Society is a non-profit organization that is focused on the open development of the Internet and is part of the group organizing World IPv6 Day.
“IPv6 is fundamentally about allowing the Internet to scale to meet the expectations and demands of a global population of 7 billion, coupled with increased expectations of how many devices are expected to be able to connect to the Internet,” he said.
IPv4 has a maximum capacity of 4.3 billion IP addresses. Today, there are more than two billion people online, with some having multiple Internet-capable devices – each one also needs to be assigned its own IP address. Experts estimate that, at the current rate of growth, IPv4 addresses will be exhausted in less than a decade.

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