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What is World IPv6 Day and why it matters

Tomorrow, June 8th, 2011, is World IPv6 Day, and Facebook, Google and Yahoo are all joining in. Here's what that means and what will it mean for you.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

While you've been asleep in your beds with visions of iPad 2s dancing in your heads, network administrators have been wide awake getting ready for World IPv6 Day. And, what's that?

As the The Internet Society explained, "The goal of the Test Drive Day is to motivate organizations across the industry - Internet service providers [ISP], hardware makers, operating system vendors and web companies - to prepare their services for IPv6 [Internet Protocol version 6) o ensure a successful transition as IPv4 addresses run out."

Well, they've been motivated all right. Facebook, Google, and Yahoo! and important content delivery network (CDN) providers, including Akamai and Limelight Network will be offering IPv6 networking as well as the usual IPv4 on June 8, 2011.

We've been running out of IPv4 addresses for some time on the Internet, but few sites already offer their services via the next generation of Internet addresses, IPv6. Despite the fact that we're now down to the last few IP addresses, indeed Asia is already out, of major sites, only some of Google's sites; Netflix, to a degree; Germany's Heise Online; Facebook at www.v6.facebook.com; and Limelight currently offer IPv6 addressing on a regular basis.

So it is that The Internet Society and others decided to star World IPv6 day. It's both a way to encourage ISPs, CDNs, and Web sites to start moving to IPv6 and to see what, if anything goes wrong when they try to support both TCP/IP networking protocols at once.

As the Internet Society explained, "One of the goals of World IPv6 Day is to expose potential issues under controlled conditions and address them as soon as possible. The vast majority of users should be able to access services as usual, but in rare cases, mis-configured or misbehaving network equipment, particularly in home networks, may impair access to participating websites during the trial. Current estimates are that 0.05% of users may experience such problems, but participating organizations will be working together with operating system manufacturers, home router vendors and ISPs to minimize the number of users affected. Participants will also be working together to provide tools to detect problems and offer suggested fixes in advance of the trial."

One network administrator told me, "If June 8 comes and passes and there is zero increase in IPv6 traffic but also zero breakage for IPv4-only customers, I'd call it a raging success."

He's right. With any luck at all, those of you who are usually regular old run-of-the-mill Internet connections won't notice a thing.

On the other hand, if you have an IPv6 connection, and you want to use it for more than just a handful of sites, tomorrow is the day for you.

One easy way to check out your connection, and how the sites participating in World IPv6 Day are doing is with the Réseaux IP Européens' (RIPE, French for "European IP Networks") IPv6 Eye Chart. This site will let you know, whether you're running IPv4 or IPv6, if your PC will have any trouble connecting to the sites using dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 networking.

According to RIPE, "When you visit the IPv6 eye chart, you test your connectivity to dual-stacked websites and a selection of World IPv6 Day participants. If you encounter problems with accessing dual-stacked websites, you will likely also have problems on World IPv6 Day accessing sites run by big content providers, like Google, Yahoo and Facebook. The eye chart will detect potential problems and provides a short list of things a user can try to fix potential problems."

Technically, what happens when you visit the eye chart is that you "Web browser will attempt to fetch a single image. If it does this within 10 seconds, a green check-mark will be displayed. If the fetching fails, a red cross will be displayed."

If something does go wrong, you can find a list of most common way to fix problems with dual-stacked Web sites at the American Registry for Internet Numbers' (ARIN) IPv6 Customer Problems site. If you're a Windows 7 user, there's already a specific fix for connecting to dual-stacked IPv4/IPv6 networks that you should check out, Resolving Internet connectivity issues on World IPv6 Day (June 8, 2011).

Here's hoping that none of you have any trouble and that the World IPv6 Day passes by uneventfully and thus successfully.

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