Facebook, Google, and Yahoo will join content delivery networks Akamai and Limelight Networks, as well as the Internet Society, to test the next-generation Internet protocol, IPv6. The companies, which support more than one billion combined Web site visits daily, will enable the protocol on their main services for 24 hours, they revealed Wednesday.
A delay in the transition from today's IP standard -- IPv4 -- to the next iteration -- IPv6 -- could hinder consistent connectivity from Internet-connected devices such as IPTV, laptops, computers, tables, smartphones and more. Successful deployment will foster uninterrupted interaction between devices and sites across the Web.
This may seem an obscure topic for online advertisers until they realize that every Internet-connected device requires an IP address -- something that experts estimate will run out this year if companies don't make the transition from IPv4.
For online advertising to continue growing and maturing -- search and display advertising -- consumers must have consistent access to the Internet through connected devices. The protocol also affects ad targeting and data collection for advertising networks collecting or relying on IP addresses for information.
Internet service providers, hardware manufacturers, operating system vendors and other Web companies will participate to help prepare services for the transition.
Google offers a separate IPv6-only version of search. The company has been readying its services for IPv6 for years. In March 2008, the company began offering Google search over IPv6 connectivity on an IPv6-only Web sites, but other Google products were not generally available over IPv6.
Phil Roberts, technology program manager for the Internet Society's IPv6 project, says on this test day anyone who goes to www.google.com with IPv6 connectivity will run on the new protocol. "That will be unique," he says. "The largest benefit will become available to those that operate networks. They will directly address and support all the users and devices being added to the Internet."
Roberts says those who want to grow their network will either have to deploy some sort of mechanism to extend the life of IPv4 or deploy IPv6. Those mechanisms, he says, have side effects that cause friction for users and those supporting them.
Companies remaining on IPv4 will find connectivity more costly, but the "Internet will continue to work," Roberts says.
The Internet Society did estimate the majority of Internet users should continue to access services as usual, but warned that in rare cases misconfigured or misbehaving network equipment, particularly in home networks, may impair access to participating Web sites during the trial.
The estimate is that 0.05% of users may experience problems, but participating organizations will work to minimize the number of users affected. Participants will also be working together to provide tools to detect problems and offer suggested fixes in advance of the trial.
The milestone in June should confirm that more computers, smartphones and other devices will have continuous and uninterrupted connectivity to the Internet. Jonathan Heiliger, VP of technical operations at Facebook, believes the industry needs to work together to ensure that future generations have open and direct access to the Internet. The test in June aims to prove that stability.