Will the Internet fail without IPv6 upgrade?

I suspect most would agree the Internet will not “stop working” if we fail to upgrade to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

So why am I bothering to write about this?


Last weekend, I was listening to a Rogers Communications Inc. radio station, Toronto’s 680 News, when the announcer read a brief news story on IPv6. One of the sources quoted was the American Registry of Assigned Numbers.


Other sources were not named. 680 News reported that “some” are comparing the lack of IPv4 addresses to the Year 2000 problem, and “some” are concerned that the Internet might “stop working.”



While it’s encouraging that the mainstream media is starting to pick up on the issue of Internet Protocol addresses, it would be nice if they could dispense with the sky is falling stories.


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Reasons for supporting IPv6 piling up



I’d like to know who is saying the Internet will “stop working,” but I assume the name of the source was omitted for the sake of brevity.

IPv6 is a different format for IP addresses. IPv6 addresses are longer and we could have, in theory, more than 340 billion billion billion billion IPv6 addresses. By contrast, there are only about four billion possible IPv4 addresses.




So enterprises and service providers must take certain measures in order to ensure they can provide service to both IPv4 and IPv6 users.


Some Internet providers, such as Comcast Corp., have announced they support IPv6.




ARIN advises enterprises to ensure Web, mail and application servers support both IPv4 and IPv6. IPv6 is not backwards-compatible with IPv4 and therefore we will need hardware and services that support both protocols.


At some point, the world will probably run out of IPv4 addresses, meaning any new IP addresses will have to come from the pot of IPv6 addresses.


IPv6 is a serious issue, but it’s not a potential show-stopper like Y2K. Companies spent billions during the 1990s preparing their systems to handle four-digit dates, and when the clock struck midnight the evening of Dec. 31, 1999, society as we know it continued to function. It would probably have been a different story if no utilities had upgraded their embedded systems and if no financial services firms or government departments had updated their databases and software to accommodate four digit dates.


If IPv6 did not exist, the Internet could still continue to function, though by next year, it would be quite difficult for any user to get a new IP address. If no new service providers upgraded to IPv6, and if no new companies upgraded Web servers to IPv6, and if there were no network address translators, the Internet would probably devolve into two different tiers.


But none of this means the Internet would “stop working.” If you disagree – especially if you are one of the unnamed sources cited by 680 News – we would like to hear from you.



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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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