June 8 is World IPv6 Day. So if you’re having trouble reaching Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, YouTube, Bing, or AOL, that could be the reason why. Here’s a little bit of background on what the problem is and – if you have a problem – how to fix it.
You may have already heard about IP addresses: They’re a bit like the numerical address of your home and allow two computers to find each other over the Internet. They’re fundamental to the way the entire web works, and everything plugged into the Internet needs one.
Back in the old days, our software elders decreed that IP addresses should start at 0.0.0.0 and go to 255.255.255.255 (for technical reasons – don’t ask). Anything in between would be a valid IP address, like 126.96.36.199 or 188.8.131.52 (but not 999.999.999.999, as the numbers between periods exceed 255). This means that there are about 4.3 billion possible IP addresses.
4.3 billion seemed like enough to cover every connected device on the planet…back in the 1970’s when IPv4 was devised. But now, which probably comes as no surprise, there are more than 4.3 billion computers, smart phones, routers, websites, and tweeting refrigerators in the world. In short, we’ve run out of IP addresses.
The solution is called IPv6, a new addressing system that provides enough unique addresses to let 3,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different devices connect to the Internet.
And today, June 8, the biggest websites in the world are testing their IPv6 systems. The catch? If your computer hasn’t been upgraded in a while, you might not be able to access them.
To find out if you’re having IPv6 issues, visit http://ipv6eyechart.ripe.net. If you see all green check marks, you’re good to go and can access any IPv6 site on the web. But if you have any red X’s, you might be in trouble. Fortunately, there’s probably an easy fix.
If you’re using Windows, follow Microsoft’s fix in Resolving Internet connectivity issues on World IPv6 Day (June 8, 2011). If you’re using a Mac, you’ll have to upgrade your operating system to something more recent than 10.6.5. You should also upgrade your web browser to its newest version to ensure you don’t experience any other problems.
If that still doesn’t fix your problem, you may have to contact your ISP’s customer service department to complain, or visit ARIN’s comprehensive list of IPv6 problems and fixes.
And if you’re wondering about the wisdom of trying to provide website help to people who may not be able to see certain websites, note: We’re not part of the test. So if you can’t see any of your favorites sites today, we’ll still be here for you!