What is IPv6 and why should I care?

Bonus points for easy instructions for jumping into the bandwagon.


Back in the 80s when IP v4 was released, they didn't expect the world + his dog to have a computer or device connected to the Internet. Since the late 90s/early 2000 devices connected to the Internet have exploded. And for the Internet to work properly, each device needs an IP address. But there aren't enough to go around; never have been really. Hence subnet masks were invented to help give users more individual IP addresses.

But now there are only a few million IPs left, as ICANN (the people who are in charge of IP addresses) have given a big proportion of unused IP addresses to the UK recently and India (I think) so there aren't many addresses left. So, in reality, it wouldn't be too far from the truth to say that we will run out of available IP addresses either at the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012. If there are no new IP addresses available, new devices can't be added to the Internet. Think of it like this, if you have a block of flats and every room in those flats is full, you can't move anyone in until someone moves out.

To yourself, you don't really need to bother about having your network running IPv6. You can use it if you want, but for the gains in using IPv6, you wouldn't notice them on a home network. Your ISP, however, needs to start using IPv6, as does everyone else on the Internet.

The Internet won't crash and burn because addresses have ran out. But the growth of the Internet will be severely impacted almost overnight.

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  • via @ARPAgeddon on Twitter: "The number of allocatable IPv4s just dropped to zero. #IPv6" :( – mkelley33 Feb 3 '11 at 18:23
  • @mkelley33 Yeah they've all been allocated now. I can't see IPv6 being rolled out any quicker though. I think it's cheaper for companies to use NAT even more extensively to combat the problem of no IPv4 IP's. Also, a lot of the IP's allocated aren't being used at the moment. – mickburkejnr Feb 4 '11 at 9:10

This document is titled the same as your question, except I is replaced with You:

Written by: Laura Jeanne Knapp (IBM Technical Evangelist). It offers a good overview, which might not be what you want depending on what your intentions might be:

  • Is it for your home usage or for the enterprise organization you are currently in?
  • Is it to make programs with IPv6 support or to administer operating systems using IPv6?
  • Are you doing it just because everybody else is doing it or is there a real need for it in your scenario?
  • Will the benefits of IPv6 outweight the complexity?
  • Is the software or hardware you are using currently going to continue to work when you go IPv6 only?

and so on. It's a good first read - hope it answers the questions you have.

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The biggest noticable feature is the expansion of the amount of addresses. Other features of ipv6 make transferring data in general just more efficient.

How can you be ipv6-ready? If you have a pc with Windows Vista/7, OSX 10.3+ or any Linux distribution then your OS is ready and will use ipv6 automatically. Networking hardware like routers or modems are generally not ipv6 ready yet and will require a firmware update. Unfortunately most vendors won't bother and will require you to buy their latest product. Your isp needs to be ipv6 ready and all the websites you connect with need to have an ipv6 address. At the moment only 0.3% of all websites are ipv6 ready.

To conclude: just make sure your home networking devices support ipv6 then wait until your isp and all websites start switching. It will happen starting next year but no isp dares to go first and it will cause some chaos.

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  • The middle part is the worst part of all this: Everything on my side is IPv6 ready, but my ISP isn't! Saddest face. – Phoshi Dec 14 '10 at 12:22
  • @Phoshi Same for me at home and work. At one place I work we setup a BSD box as a router with a HE tunnel (originally SIXXS until we had problems with them). The other place I setup a Hexago tunnel on one of the machines for testing. – Brian Knoblauch Dec 15 '10 at 21:08
  • "Any Linux distribution?" - Not quite, as Zenwalk (d__n it, hyperion) still refuses to compile the kernels it distributes with IPv6 in it. Morons. – new123456 Jul 29 '11 at 4:39

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