Half our readers are committed to IPv6, yet a quarter don’t know what it is
TechWeekEurope’s readers are divided over IPv6, the protocol which will support the next generation of the Internet. Half of you are committed, while the rest profess ignorance or denial.
IP version 6 was designed to replace the current internet protocol, IPv4, allowing a massive expansion in the number of Internet addresses which can be used. However, slow progress towards the new protocol, led to the closure of IPv6 promotion body 6UK this month – the group said it could not hope to establish the protocol unless public sector sites led the way.
In a poll of TechWeekEurope readers, more than half said they are committed to adopting the protocol – but a quarter still don’t know what IPv6 is.
NAT delays IPv6
The Internet was designed with addresses which are 32 bits long, which only allows around 4.3 billion unique addresses – less than the population of the earth,and much less than the total number of devices and objects (smartphones, traffic lights etc) which will need Internet addresses to communicate.
To continue using IPv4, service providers and businesses use a system called NAT (network address translation) so they can use IP addresses within their own networks which are not unique.
“NAT sort of works,” said Nigel Titley, who chaired 6UK and also chairs RIPE, Europe’s Internet registry. “It works for a limited set of applications, such as Web browsing and email.”
NAT means that no-one has to go to IPv6 immediately, and many organisations have postponed the move, but the Internet as a whole is losing out, said Titley. Peer-to-peer services have to work quite hard to communicate between devices using NAT, and new inventive Internet protocols are not being developed, because they can’t get fixed Internet addresses.
As IPv4 addresses become more scarce, NAT will have to be applied on a larger and larger scale, so whole ISPs or countries will effectively be running on a separate Internet to the rest of the world.
TechWeekEurope‘s poll (as of 19 December) found a surprising level of support for the protocol, with 40 percent of readers saying their external-facing sites would support access over IPv6 by the end of 2013. A decent 12 percent are going further, and will support IPv6 internally as well. That adds up to 52 percent of you, which is cheering for IPv6 supporters: many of these respondents will be within academic institutions and Internet service providers (ISPs) who have enabled IPv6 in order to support users who want to move to it.
There were two big shocks in the results so far, however. Ten percent of readers believe they will never need IPv6, and nearly a quarter don’t know what it is.
It’s not our place to editorialise here, but in our view these figures represent denial and ignorance. It’s very short-sighted to believe you will never need IPv6 when it has the potential to return the Internet to the days when all end systems could be addressed directly, when today’s protocols and applications emerged. And it’s wilful ignorance to remain unaware of the change that would be required to achieve this.
The last substantial group (more than 14 percent) felt they could wait and see, having “no immediate plans” to adopt the protocol.
We will keep this poll live, and provide updates if the figures change significantly.
Besides learning about IPv6, do our Christmas Quiz this holiday!