If you find some things are not working on the internet today, it may be because one of the largest ever updates of the global system is taking place.
June 6 is World IPv6 Day, the day when major international content providers like Google and Facebook, as well as Internet Service Providers (ISPs), home networking equipment manufacturers, and web companies around the world, are making the permanent switch to a new Internet Protocol. While most users won’t experience any glitches, those with older computer systems (for example, older than Windows Vista or Mac Snow Leopard) may have trouble.
The reason for the global overhaul is because we are running out of traditional IP addresses.
“Thirty years ago, four billion Internet Protocol (or IP) addresses seemed like plenty. Today it’s not sufficient for a planet full of computers, laptops, cell phones, appliances, watches — even refrigerators — that require a connection to the Internet,” says Robin Winsor, President and CEO of Cybera, the organization in Alberta responsible for ensuring advanced and efficient e-infrastructure — the system of networks, hardware and software that make the Internet possible.
Under the current system (Internet Protocol version 4) the number of IP addresses is a mere 2 to the power of 32, and they are either no longer available or very difficult to obtain. With the new protocol, there will be 2 to the power of 128 addresses available.
One year ago, on June 8, a trial 24-hour test was conducted by major companies like Google in preparation for today’s upgrade. Very few users experienced glitches (less than 0.02 percent of internet users). The international Internet Society organized the test to ensure that the upgrade would not “break the internet.”
Cybera was among the first organizations in Canada to switch to the new Internet Protocol, early in 2011. On the new version, called IPv6, Cybera has 300 septillion (3 x 10 to the power of 26) IP addresses to allocate to Alberta’s growing e-infrastructure — more than the entire world’s collection of IPv4 addresses.
The older system used a decimal system that people will recognize if they set up their own Internet configurations as, for example, 192.168.1.1. With the new protocol, which uses a hexadecimal or base 16 system, both numbers and letters are used. The new IP addresses are so long it will be difficult to recognize or type, and will be replaced, instead, with a name.
Meagan Hampel, Communications Manager, Cybera
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