The new Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) launched on Wednesday replaces the older version iPv4, which is running out of 32-bit addresses and has limitations that are about to be corrected by a new technology loaded with potentials for consumers and controversies for businesses, service providers, and governments.
I am currently in the Netherlands marking World IPv6 Day at the Amsterdam Scientific Park and wondering how the latest development in the inter-networking world will affect businesses and consumers globally. The event has inspired some thoughts that I would like to share here with the EBN community.
While June 8 has come and passed without any disaster, discussions about IPv6 adoption by telecom services providers and broadcasters are flooding technical and opinion blogs, indicating its importance to the business world. Consumers won't see the differences immediately, however, and they shouldn't have to worry about it. As important as the transition to IPv6 is, for most consumers the technical jargon behind it is irrelevant. They just want their Internet devices to work. They'll continue to work and offer tools for peer-to-peer communications that will spark a new round of Internet traffic growth -- if the gatekeepers step out of the way
What the high-tech industry needed to deliver was a solution that works and doesn't bog down consumers in technicalities. IPv6 does that. Still, consumers have to understand what it means for them, and how they can best extract value from IPv6. In previous blogs, I reviewed some of the new features being introduced by IPv6, especially for end users. (See: Is IPv6 Key to Seamless Communication? and Internet of Things.) The two blogs featured examples of pragmatic applications that Internet users are already experimenting with, especially in regions where IPv4 addresses were running out at the beginning of this year.
It is time to step up the conversation. There is a correlation between the growth of the electronic devices market and peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic trend. As the sale of portable wireless devices has grown through increased user adoption of tablet PCs and smartphones so has the need in the consumer community for the "connected" lifestyle. Increasingly, users now check mail and breaking news, schedule activities and engage in social media conversations on the go. IPv6 will enhance the adoption of these types of activities as equipment vendors bring to market devices that allow direct personal and business to business communications.
In fact, an interesting study from Arbor Networks has reported IPv6 deployment is mapping exactly the scenario above mentioned: IPv6 is still a very small percentage of total worldwide Internet traffic, but more than 60 percent of IPv6 traffic is peer-to-peer vs. 8 percent of IPv4 traffic. Internet Authorities such as RIPE, the Regional Internet Registry for European Region, is this week displaying a real-time map comparing usage patterns of IPv6 and IPv4 by people accessing Yahoo, Google, and Facebook.
The Internet community is looking closely at these numbers to understand how to take advantage of the full offerings of IPv6. As of today, many Internet Service Providers' connections are based on IPv4, which means full -- and direct -- peer-to-peer communication is not fully allowed. Users have to post their contents on social repositories, and, after having agreed on providers' privacy policies, share them inside a subscribed community.
IPv6 will allow consumers to bypass these firewalls and engage in activities that are somewhat forbidden currently. The new Internet protocol will also enable individuals to share contents directly on their own portable devices, avoiding any middlemen. This is an important step in the evolution of the Internet. It could potentially transfer privacy responsibility from the service providers (or content providers) to the end users.
Beyond the technology implications and advantages over the space-constrained IPv4, the new IPv6 that has gone into effect offers some interesting dynamics to the Internet community. We don't yet know the implications for the global community, but this much is clear: The era of the connected user is here.