IPv6: the Internet, broader.

by Geofroy L
While the World Wide Web users are more and more numerous, the internet we know today is reaching some of its limits. The IPv6 comes to enhance these limits, and makes the internet enter a new dimension.

The Internet Protocol version 6 is the communication protocol developed in order to succeed to the actual IPv4. The Internet Protocol is the main means of communication on which the internet is built. Why 6? Because the “IPv5” is already used to designate an experimental protocol, developed but now abandoned.

The IPv4 provides a framework of addresses (IP) in 32 bits, what means 232 (about 4×109) available addresses. Nowadays, all of the 4 294 967 296 addresses are about to be completely used. The exhaustion of the 32 bits addresses gets faster since the Chinese, and more globally the Asian economies are booming, and where the number of internet users is getting bigger. The IPv4 is supposed to distribute its last addresses, the 5% remaining, by the end of 2011.

Thus, the most visible improvement of this new version of the Internet Protocol is a framework of addresses in 128 bits, means 2128 (3.4×1038) new addresses available, or 667 millions of billions of addresses available per millimeter sq.

Besides this new address space, the IPv6 delivers a better security and a much easier connectivity. The devices using IPv6 connections are auto-configured. Thus, it is much more adapted for mobility issues that businesses are facing everyday with new Medias and technologies.

Currently, the IPv6 is still rarely used as less than 1% of the users in the world have an IPv6 connection. However, major websites like YouTube or Facebook already accept IPv6 connections; another example: the United States Department of Defense uses now IPv6 connections.

For the basic user, the switch from a version to the other should stay relatively invisible. Most of the recent devices are already “IPv6 ready”, and so are the softwares: Windows Vista and Seven, or Mac OS X. However, the firms will have to face several constraints. The main one is the cost of the update, whereas the benefits of it aren’t obvious, and the need for it isn’t really perceived (no application was developed specially for IPv6… because nobody is using IPv6). Then, there is a lack of specific skills when speaking of IPv6, so the update of a whole network in a firm is harder. What’s more, these specific skills aren’t taught enough yet.

On a global level, the redistribution of new addresses should be more equilibrated. With the IPv4, 89% of the addresses are located in North America and Europe, while only 9% are in Asia. It is not a surprise that Asia and especially China will have to play a bigger role. Actually, China is supposed to have the biggest IPv6 network (but the IPv6 represents less than 1% of the world web traffic).

What is going to change with the IPv6? Well, it is hard to predict what users and developers will do with it. However the changes induced by the IPv6 can lead to wonder if it will be all good for the final user. For example, this new system of addresses assigns a unique address to each user on the web. Thus, the user’s (supposed) anonymity can be compromised as each of his acts on the web can be attached then to his address. It is very interesting when speaking of consumer’s behavior and web-marketing, but quite disturbing for the user himself. Actually, it is more than just a though because it is precisely what China would like to achieve…

The Internet is about to experience an evolution – not a revolution – and while the final user won’t noticed what’s happening, business all over the world are about to face serious – but necessarily – technological issues.


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