By Louie Lee
“So what?” you might ask. “I’m already online so I’m not one of those poor folks who needs this new-fangled-IPv6 address to get online.”
The catch is that IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible. In other words, if you are using IPv4 on your computer, and the other end is using IPv6, you can’t talk to each other… without something else.
The good news is that all modern popular computer platforms can do both IPv4 and IPv6. (Macs have had IPv6 support since OS X 10.4.8 in 2006. Windows has had more and more IPv6 support starting with Vista, also in 2006.)
Business Continuity Case
“AGAIN, SO WHAT?” you might insist. What if I put it to you as a business continuity case?
Let’s say that you are an online shopping site that has been enjoying 20% growth year-over-year because all your customers have been telling their friends about you. All the IPv4 addresses have now run out, and new friends are coming online with IPv6 addresses. All these friends can chat and email each other because their social network site can run both IPv4 and IPv6.
But since you’re not IPv6-enabled, your customers’ friends who are on IPv6 can’t reach your site to shop. You still continue to grow because some of your new customers can still reach you on IPv4. As the months go by, however, the rate of your growth drops to zero as those friends who are on the IPv6 Internet recommend your IPv6-enabled competitor’s shopping site.
More realistically, though, the customer who can reach your website from home just fine might not be able to reach you anymore from their new, constantly-on, web-enabled smartphone. The mobile device of the future will be on IPv6 if service is available. (Both the Apple iPhone(r) and Google Android OS gained some IPv6 features in mid-2010.)
“Maybe you’re misunderstanding me,” you continue. “I am a nurse. I don’t run an online business. I just want to read my emails, watch YouTube, and go to all my websites.” Okay, you have a point. I fully agree that you shouldn’t care whether you are running IPv4 or IPv6. You just want to get online and do your thing.
I understand that a large segment of the online community should NOT be made to care about it. We shop for ISPs like we shop for cars: “Can I get it here?” “Is it fast enough for me?” How about, “Can it get me everywhere I want to go?” Pretty soon, new websites will be popping up that are IPv6-only and if your ISP can’t get your there, maybe you need to find one that can.
Sure, there are translation technologies that can translate the two different languages that are IPv4 and IPv6. And just like getting the services of a foreign language translator, these technologies might do in a pinch. But if you’re going to be online for more than just a couple of vacation visits, wouldn’t it be much better to “learn the language” by adopting IPv6 rather than being tethered to a translator all the time?