Last year, on the 6th of June to be exact, was a momentous occasion that most of the users of the Internet wasn’t that aware of. All of the big players on the Internet such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Akamai, Huawei, and others participated in this event. Name a big Internet company and most likely they were part of it.
That occasion was the IPv6 test. For 24 hours, these companies and internet service providers enabled IPv6 in their hardware just to test if it would cause interruptions in the way the Internet worked. At the end of that one day test, it was determined that it was a success and decided that in a year’s time, IP v6 would be turned on permanently.
Well, a year has passed and IPv6 Day has arrived. If you are reading this after the fact, then all is well and hopefully will stay that way.
Why is turning on IPv6 in the first place? The Internet Protocol that we have been using is IPv4. You know it better when you setup a router, for instance, and see the numbers 192.168.2.1 or 10.0.0.1. These sets of numbers are essentially the phone numbers of the Internet. When we type in a URL such as Amazon.com or Google.com, these names are assigned an IP address so that our computer knows where to connect to. It is like associating a phone number to a particular name.
As our society becomes more connected with not only our PCs but also our smartphones, tablets, and other devices, we use up these IP addresses. Unfortuntely, IPv4 is only limited to a little over 4 billion addresses. Think about it, more and more people connect to the Internet, we use up these IP addresses. But if you think about it some more, one person might connect to the Internet using more than one device. One person might have a PC, a smartphone, a tablet, an Internet radio, and so on and so forth.
Basically, we are running out of IP addresses to use. Just last year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that basically looks over the whole Internet gave out the last pool of IP addresses. This means that once these IP addresses are used, then that’s it. No more new devices can connect to the Internet.
That is why IPv6 was developed. With IPv6, instead of just 4 billion IP addresses, we now have 360 trillion trillion trillion (yes, that’s 3 “trillions”). That is enough to give just one person around a billion IP addresses to use and still have more to spare.
So what does this mean to you? Not much in the immediate term. Everything will still run as before and by the time that the Internet stop using IPv4, all of your devices will already have IPv6 enabled and that will eventually happen a few more years down the road. Currently, all major browsers already support IPv6 and most hardware, such as network routers, on sale today does support IPv6.
And as June 6, 2012 comes to a close and IPv6 has been turned on, most people worldwide will never realize that on the Internet, a new day has dawned…at least until they can’t connect to the Internet. Happy IPv6 Day.