IPv6, and why you should use it

If you’re on any Windows operating system since Windows Vista, IPv6 is enabled by default. If you’ve ever called upon by your family or friends to fix their internet, you’ve more than likely came across a reference to the protocol at least once.

But what is it? According to the FCC:

” In order to connect devices over the Internet, each device must have an Internet protocol (IP) address. The current IP system is Version 4 (IPv4), which makes available over four billion IP addresses…

…IPv6, the next-generation protocol, provides approximately 340 undecillion IP addresses (see Figure 1), ensuring availability of new IP addresses far into the future, as well as promoting the continued expansion and innovation of Internet technology. “

Internet Protocol Version 6: IPv6 for Consumers

Okay, that’s all fine and well, but how does that translate to us, the consumer? Luckily, there is no set day when IPv4 (e.g. 192.168.xxx.xxx) addresses will up and stop working, but more and more Service Providers are implementing and prioritizing IPv6 infrastructure to take advantage of the new IP addresses. With only 4 billion IP addresses possible under IPv4, the ISPs of the world have been scrambling to scoop up as many of them as possible to reserve for their customers. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority says they ran out of IP addresses to dish out back in 2011. That’s a pretty big deal.

I don’t see all the major Service Providers dropping everything to address this issue, with Microsoft taking nearly 6 years after the IANA ran out to even start playing around with the idea of using IPv6 internally. WordPress still doesn’t support IPv6, which is easily seen when accessing this blog with IPv6-only. Text and images (like images from my ad server and my logo) hosted on Hostinger show up, but any images hosted on WP’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) don’t show up. This is because WP, as well as big names in the tech industry, does not offer IPv6.

dig -6 i0.wp.com

From my research into IPv6, the only benefits of using it that I could find are:

  • IPv6 does not utilize Network Address Translation (NAT), which is sort of a bandwidth hog. This means devices can use Stateless Address Autoconfiguration (SLAAC) to configure themselves automatically when connected to an IPv6 network. This also means that devices can see a marginal increase in bandwidth, which is everything on slower networks.
  • ICMPv6 (the ICMP implementation for IPv6) implements IPSec, which authenticates and encrypts the packets of data sent over an network. This means that IPv6 is arguably more secure than IPv4.
  • IPv6 causes less strain on the network devices delivering content to your face because IPv6 requires less packet processing than IPv4.

On a Service-provider-level, these are all things that would make their lives easier. The only thing that is supposedly holding them back is the monetary cost of upgrading their existing single-stack infrastructures to dual-stack. I find this incredibly difficult to believe. According to The Wall Street Journal, Automattic (the company behind WordPress) is valued at $1.16 billion. According to GovTech.com, a recent unofficial analysis discovered only nine of 1,761 federal Web domains were found to be IPv6 compliant. Our own government refuses to see how important IPv6 adoption is.

So please. If you care about the internet and the wonderful services that it provides, then do you and every other netizen a favour and keep pushing for the widespread adoption of IPv6. At the rate that it is, it’ll take ages before it becomes the de facto standard that we can all benefit from.

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~ Nikolai