Using IPv6: Watching the dancing turtle

ARIN, the organization responsible for giving out IP numbers in North America, says it's time to start using IPv6. This time, they really mean it!

ARIN, the organization responsible for giving out IP numbers in North America, says it's time to start using IPv6. This time, they really mean it! Can you hear the collective yawn? The fact is, until they're forced to, most people don't care and they're not going to go to the trouble of setting up dual stack servers that have a presence on the IPv6 Internet.

Does your favorite server have a presence in IPv6 land? Here's how to tell: Get the DNS record and see if there's a AAAA (four A's) record in addition to the standard A record. The AAAA record containts the IPv6 address. If you use the host command on UNIX, you'll see something like this:

$ host www.kame.net
www.kame.net has address 203.178.141.194
www.kame.net has IPv6 address
2001:200::8002:203:47ff:fea5:3085
The reason the host command reports an IPv6 address for kame.net is because kame.net is advertising that address in an AAAA record. Try it with a few of the more popular Web sites. You won't find Google, Yahoo, IBM, or Apple, for example, advertising IPv6 addresses. Why should they bother? It's one more thing to make sure works right for almost no gain at all besides the joy of saying "Hey! We're using IPv6!"

When you visit a site that's advertising an IPv6 address, do you use it? That is, is your client configured to use IPv6 when possible? Here's how to tell: go to kame.net. Is the turtle dancing? No? Then you're not using IPv6 from your client.

Note that your service provider doesn't have to be using IPv6 in their routers for you to use it from your client or on your server. There are several different ways for IPv6 traffic to tunnel on the IPv4 Internet. Ars Technica has a great introduction to IPv6, if you want to know more.

There's a real chicken and egg problem here. Why should I make sure my clients are using IPv6 if there's no content on IPv6 that I can't get to on IPv4 (besides the dancing turtle, of course)? Why should I set up a server in the IPv6 address space, if no one's going to come?

At some point we will run out of space in IPv4 and ARIN will be forced to only give out IPv6 addresses. Pity those brave pioneers. They'll have to have something pretty compelling on their site to attract visitors. (Note there's been a proposal to put porn in IPv6 for that very reason.) IPv4 addresses will get very expensive at that point and then, maybe, we'll get off the dime and move to IPv6 in earnest. Until then, enjoy the dancing turtle.