January 12, 2011, 11:04 AM — Several of the Internet's most popular Web sites - including Facebook, Google and Yahoo - have agreed to participate in the first global-scale trial of IPv6, the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol known as IPv4.
The trial — dubbed "World IPv6 Day" — requires participants to support native IPv6 traffic on their main Web sites on June 8, 2011. Leading content delivery networks Akamai and Limelight Networks also committed to the IPv6 trial, which is being sponsored by the Internet Society.
"It's an exciting opportunity to take IPv6 for a test flight and try it on for a full 24 hours," says Leslie Daigle, the Internet Society's Chief Internet Technology Officer. "Hopefully, we will see positive results from this trial so we will see more IPv6 sooner rather than later."
IPv6 is a necessary upgrade because the Internet is running out of IP addresses using the 30-year-old IPv4 standard.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Evolution of the Internet
Less than 5% of IPv4 addresses are left unallocated to the regional Internet registries, which in turn dole them out to network operators. Experts say the free pool of IPv4 addresses will be depleted in a matter of weeks.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices - 2 to the 128th power.
When World IPv6 Day occurs, there's likely to be a surge of IPv6 traffic across the Internet. Today, IPv6 represents less than one-twentieth of 1% of overall Internet traffic, according to Arbor Networks.
One issue is whether IPv6 will be up to the task of providing production-grade performance on such heavily trafficked sites.