June 6, 2012
IPv6 Is Officially Operational
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
Today marks a new milestone in the story of the Internet, as companies began their switch to the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).
The new system is necessary to keep from running out of available addresses for new devices by creating trillions of new addresses.
Experts said people should not notice any difference in their web use, and new devices should be using the system as a standard.
Over 2,000 websites, including Google and Facebook, have enabled the new system in order to encourage other Internet sites to follow suit.
IPv6 will eventually replace IPv4, which is the system adopted during the early days of the Internet. The old system allows for just over four billion unique IP addresses.
Every device that is connected to the Internet has a unique IP address in order to connect to the Internet. Some devices, such as computers in a house, have to share the same IP address by using a router.
Cisco predicts that by 2016, 18.9 billion Internet enabled devices will be online, and making the switch to IPv6 means that there will be enough room for trillions of addresses.
"The new, larger IPv6 expands the limit to 2^128 addresses–more than 340 trillion, trillion, trillion! Enough for essentially unlimited growth for the foreseeable future," Vint Cerf, the "chief internet evangelist" for Google, wrote in a blog post.
Both IPv6 and IPv4 will be working side-by-side for the next few years in order to ensure devices do not stop working.
"Most users shouldn't notice anything," Leo Vegoda from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), said in a statement. "If ordinary Internet users need to know stuff, then the technology isn't right."
Vegoda said some users on IPv4-only devices may experience speed issues, and once IPv6 has made the full switch, older devices and networks may experience problems.
"The introduction of IPv6 is the IT equivalent of the move from imperial to metric for measurement; the two can run side by side but aren't compatible with each other," Mark Lewis, vice president for development for telecommunications firm Interoute, said in a statement to BBC.
Only 1 percent of end users are expected to be reaching websites using the IPv6 standard, but the Internet Society said it expects that to gradually grow as users update their software and hardware.
On June 8, 2011, participating networks and sites turned on IPv6 for a day to test out the new system. They reverted back to IPv4 the next day, but found no flaws with the new system.
The IPv4 system was first established in 1981, and is structured similar to this: 192.168.0.1. The IPv6 system is structured similar to this: 1564:4278:3130:5616:7820:9071:8745:8946. The switch is like adding more digits to phone numbers in order to expand the amount of phone numbers an operator can give out.