What to do on World IPv6 Day? Don’t touch anything!

8 Feb 2011

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Website owners have been warned not to try switching their sites to IPv6 on World IPv6 Day, 8 June, unless they know for sure their ISP or hosting providers have already moved to the new domain name system.

Even though the world is running out of IP addresses as IPv4 reaches its known limit, many wonder are we staring into the abyss? Is this the end of the web as we know it and must we not all rush headlong towards IPv6?

Well, according to a senior executive at major telecoms equipment giant ZyXEL, it’s time to cool our jets a bit and get perspective. David Thomson, a product director at the company, warns website owners to be sure if their ISP or hosting provider has already switched their systems from IPv4 to IPv6, otherwise they could be opening a can of worms and things could go awry.

Thompson, whose company built the first IPv6 ADSL gateway in 2005, said there has been large-scale adoption of IPv6 ADSL2+ and VDSL2 gateways by telcos in North America.

24-hour test flight of IPv6 on 8 June

Major internet brands Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Bing will be conducting a 24-hour test flight of IPv6 on 8 June. Google internet evangelist Vint Cerf said recently that 0.02pc of the world’s internet community are ready for IPv6 and said that internet users themselves don’t have to do anything special to prepare for World IPv6 Day.

“Our current measurements suggest that the vast majority (99.95pc) of users will be unaffected. However, in rare cases, users may experience connectivity problems, often due to misconfigured or misbehaving home network devices,” Cerf said.

Thompson echoes Cerf’s opinion and urges website owners not to try switching to IPv6 if they don’t know if their ISP or hosing provider has the tunnelling in place or not.

“On 8 June a lot of people fear they will be caught unawares and someone will no doubt tell them to how to do it on a Mac or PC. Don’t do it. It won’t work,” warned Thompson. “End users who get caught up in IPv6 will find that not much will work, but then you’ll find a lot of websites who will know what they are doing.

“It will depend on how your webspace provider is set up. If you switch over to IPv6 before your provider has you’ll find that you’re going to have to reconfigure your entire hardware for IPv6.

“The most likely scenario will be the odd site or two who will extend their budget and work with their website provider to move to IPv6. The little guys, the mom and pop stores, those sites will take a little while longer to transition to IPv6 and the longer they wait the easier it will be.”

As Thompson points out, the internet has been through these transitions in the past such as move from BITNET and Arpanet.

“At the end of the day, even though Google and Facebook and others will be testing their systems for IPv6 on 8 June, end users who don’t have an IPv6 capability will still be able to connect to these websites. There has been a lot of awareness building but a lot of the major internet companies will try to do a dual protocol test.

“There will not be a situation on 8 June that people won’t be able to access their favourite websites, the only sites they won’t be able to access are the ones that tried to move too soon.

“Don’t touch anything. If you know what you’re doing then definitely play with it but people who don’t, just sit back,” Thompson said.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com