Google, Facebook, Yahoo and several networking companies will on Wednesday carry out a massive test of IPv6, the new version of the internet protocol that allows 340 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses, rather than the 4.3 billion IP addresses possible with IPv4.
IPv6 will be needed as the world's stock of IPv4 addresses runs out and as billions of new devices — ranging from handsets to lightbulbs — require their own IP addresses. However, the switchover also requires a lot of testing, which is why Google and the other companies in the Internet Society are carrying out the 24-hour 'test flight' of making their services available over IPv6.
"In all likelihood, you won't even notice the test," Google network engineer and 'IPv6 samurai' Lorenzo Colitti said in a blog post on Monday. "The vast majority (99.95 percent) of people will be able to access services without interruption: either they'll connect over IPv6, or their systems will successfully fall back to IPv4."
However, Colitti also warned there "may be teething pains", with 0.05 percent of systems failing to fall back to IPv4, leading some people to find Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Bing and other participating websites "slow or unresponsive on World IPv6 Day".
"This is often due to misconfigured or misbehaving home networking equipment, such as home routers, that can make a computer think it has IPv6 connectivity when in fact it's not working," Colitti explained, adding that Google employees have been themselves using IPv6 for "several months now" in an attempt to find bugs in the system.
Those wishing to test their connection for IPv6 compliance can do so at any time through the ipv6test.google.com page, set up for that purpose.