History of World IPv6 Launch Day: June 6, 2012


What happens on June 6, 2012?

The Internet Society is sponsoring World IPv6 Launch Day. On June 6, 2012, over fifty access networks and more than 2,500 websites — including Cisco, Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Yahoo — will turn on support for the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol and leave it on for good.
Why haven’t I heard about it before?

It was only last year on June 8, 2011, that the Internet Society sponsored the first World IPv6 Day, when Cisco, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Akamai, Limelight Networks, Genius, W3C, and others participated for 24 hours in the first global “test flight” of IPv6. “This time it is for real” announces the World IPv6 Launch website. The largest ISPs have signed on for World IPv6 Day, including Comcast, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Time Warner in the United States, and have agreed to enable IPv6 for one percent of their subscribers by June 6. Some have enabled much more than that already. Cisco will support IPv6 by default on routers they ship.

Who is the Internet Society?

They were founded in 1992 to provide a corporate structure to support the Internet standards development process. Vint Cerf (Google) one of “the fathers of the Internet”, Bob Kahn “co-inventor of TCP/IP”, and Lyman Chapin released a document “Announcing ISOC” to support the technical evolution of the Internet.


What is IP (Internet Protocol) and why do I care?

Glad you asked. If you’re reading this far in the article, and there is a high likelihood you are, then you’re using Internet Protocol. It’s how we connect computers and devices together on the Internet. IP is the primary communications protocol used for relaying “packets” of information across the Internet. IP’s job is to deliver these packets or “datagrams” from a source computer or smart device to the destination computer using only their addresses. As such, IP is the connectionless datagram service in the original Transmission Control Program introduced back in 1974 by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. Along with Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), we get TCP/IP.


What happened to IPv4?

It’s still around, but quite simply, we’ve outgrown it. The IPv4 address standard was developed in 1981 when few anticipated there would be more than millions of computers connected together on the Internet. Computers thirty years ago were typically large and expensive, and personal computers were in their infancy. IPv4 allowed for only slightly over 4 billion unique addresses. Specifically 232 or 4,294,967,296 addresses. Things are very different today and in the near future. In 5 years, Cisco predicts there will be over 15 billion Internet-connected devices, roughly an average of 2 Internet-capable devices for every person on the planet.


What does IPv6 provide?

Because IPv4 uses only 32-bit addresses (232) those 4 billion addresses were exhausted in February 2011. But IPv6 uses a 128-bit address system, or 2128. This works out to 3.4 x 1038 addresses or 340 undecillion. In real life, that is equivalent to 5 x 1028 addresses per person — for you, me, and everyone else alive on the planet. This would be at least five Internet addresses for every atom in your body. It is not too far off from the number of charged particles in the universe, as theorized by Arthur Eddington.

It also has some other features around stateless address auto-configuration and network renumbering, data encryption for security, as well as an automatic mechanism for formatting the host identifier, but I don’t want to get too technical.


Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.


  1. Online Home Inspector on June 8, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    IPV4 is not really intended to immediately replace IPV6. Both can live together albeit not unlike the Northern and Souther Protectorates :). This gist sounds like the testing of SSL.V3 era where you fear to lose your credit card information to internet criminals. There will definitely be interruptions, but it won’t kill the www altogether for 24 hrs. However I think it was on WallStreetJournal that I read about ISPs already putting in measures to cushion any possible disruption.

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