World IPv6 Day: firing up the engines on the new Internet protocol

Today, Google and major websites are joining the Internet Society to announce World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour test flight of the next generation Internet protocol on June 8, 2011.

The story begins in 1977, when Vint Cerf, the program manager for the ARPA Internet research project (and now one of the driving forces behind Google’s IPv6 efforts), chose a 32-bit address format for an experiment in packet network interconnection. Who would have thought that the experiment would evolve into today’s Internet: a global network connecting billions of people, some using handheld devices faster than the mainframes of the 1970s?

For more than 30 years, 32-bit addresses have served us well, but now the Internet is running out of space. IPv6 is the only long-term solution, but as the chart below shows, it has not yet been widely deployed. With IPv4 addresses expected to run out in 2011, only 0.2% of Internet users have native IPv6 connectivity:

IPv6 connectivity among Google users since September 2008

Google has been supporting IPv6 since early 2008, when we first began offering search over IPv6. Since then we’ve brought IPv6 support to YouTube and have been helping ISPs enable Google over IPv6 by default for their users.

On World IPv6 Day, we’ll be taking the next big step. Together with major web companies such as Facebook and Yahoo!, we will enable IPv6 on our main websites for 24 hours. This is a crucial phase in the transition, because while IPv6 is widely deployed in many networks, it’s never been used at such a large scale before. We hope that by working together with a common focus, we can help the industry prepare for the new protocol, find and resolve any unexpected issues, and pave the way for global deployment.

The good news is that Internet users don’t need to do anything special to prepare for World IPv6 Day. Our current measurements suggest that the vast majority (99.95%) of users will be unaffected. However, in rare cases, users may experience connectivity problems, often due to misconfigured or misbehaving home network devices. Over the coming months we will be working with application developers, operating system vendors and network device manufacturers to further minimize the impact and provide testing tools and advice for users.

We hope that many other websites will join us in participating in World IPv6 Day. Changing the language spoken by every device on the Internet is a large task, but it’s essential to ensure the future of an open and robust Internet for decades to come.

Posted by Lorenzo Colitti, Network Engineer Permalink