“World IPv6 Day,” taking place today, June 8, is the biggest-ever test of a new IP address system aimed at solving the problem of the internet running out room.
Google, Yahoo and Facebook are among the many companies trying out IPv6 versions of their websites in a one-day technical trial that is intended to test the long-term transition from older IPv4 addresses, which the world is running out of as more internet devices come online.
Every computer connects to the internet through a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. The current Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) system came about in the early 1980s, with IP addresses typically written as 12 digits, for example 188.8.131.52. But this gives a maximum of around 4 billion addresses.
These addresses are nearly used up, due to the rapid growth in internet-connected devices such as iPads and Kindles.
The new and more efficient system, IPv6, is written in hexadecimal, for example 34CA:00E3:0001:9A3B:00AA:01FF:DE28:8A3C. This system boasts a maximum of 340 undecillion possible addresses — too many to fathom.
On World IPv6 Day, the small number of IPv6-enabled internet users will be able to access IPv6 versions of major websites, but for those without it, the pages will revert back to IPv4.
“We believe this is an important milestone, as IPv6 is the only long-term solution to IPv4 address exhaustion, and its deployment is crucial to the continued growth of the open Internet,” Google said on its blog.
World IPV6 Day, organized by the Internet Society, is also meant to be an awareness-raising event. Companies and home internet users may eventually need to upgrade their equipment to work with the IPv6 system.
The vast majority of internet users will not even notice World IPv6 Day, since relatively few people are using IPv6.
But Computerworld reports that hackers may use this day to launch attacks, since IPv6 lacks the security built into the current system.