How will the new internet affect you?
Fri, 08 Jun 2012 2:53p.m.
By Imogen Crispe
A new type of internet address launched this week – so how will this affect internet users in New Zealand?
IPv6 is a new type of internet protocol, or IP, address which will be assigned to systems using the internet.
You may have heard of IP addresses when setting up your wireless modem or getting remote computer help. It is a unique label assigned to each device using the internet.
So if you have a PC, a laptop, an iPad and an iPhone at home, each one will have a different IP address.
But the current IP system, IPv4, is running out of unique addresses to assign to all the billions of devices around the world using the internet, so a new IP system is being introduced which has an almost uncountable number.
The New Zealand IPv6 Task Force has the job of making New Zealand businesses and organisations aware of the need to adopt IPv6, which will be a gradual process over the next few years.
The task force is supported by the Ministry of Economic Development.
Task force consultant Donald Clark says the adoption of IPv6 is important for the internet to keep expanding.
“We need to do this because otherwise it will start to limit the continued growth of the internet.”
He says it is most important for businesses to be aware of IPv6, although it may have a small effect on non-business users.
Mr Clark says there will only be a few small things that non-business users might notice or have problems with.
“The user won’t see really anything, some things will become easier, but people will be able to do everything they have done [in the past],” Mr Clark says.
He says things like video conferencing will be easier with IPv6, but some home users may eventually need to upgrade their internet security and buy new routers if they have had them for a few years.
Mr Clark advises people to check with their internet provider to make sure their router is compatible, or if they are buying a new one, check it is compatible with IPv6.
He says some New Zealand internet providers have already started implementing IPv6, but others have not, so people should contact their provider to find out what is happening.
A survey of 39 New Zealand internet providers conducted by the IPv6 Task Force in June/July last year found 46 percent of providers offered IPv6-enabled products and services, but they have not started to publicise or inform their users about it.
“They are a little bit quiet because they are not [yet] there,” Mr Clark says.
But he says another problem for users could be communicating with the world.
Currently other countries such as India, China and France have already started widespread use of IPv6, and if someone in New Zealand who is using IPv4 wants to communicate via the internet with someone from those countries, they may have trouble.
Users here may struggle to access overseas sites which are no longer IPv4 compatible, or struggle to access New Zealand sites while travelling. If they are in China or India, they may be using an IPv6 device, and will not be able to access some New Zealand websites which are not IPv6 capable.
Mr Clark says most popular international websites are now both IPv4 and IPv6 capable, including Google and Facebook, but others like Twitter have not yet enabled it.
Mr Clark says it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to adopt IPv6.
As mentioned, other countries such as India, China and France have already started widespread use of IPv6, and if someone in New Zealand who is using IPv4 wants to communicate via the internet with someone from those countries, they may have trouble.
Mr Clark says 72 percent of New Zealand export trade is with countries which have implemented compulsory IPv6 adoption. This means in order to communicate with those countries, businesses in New Zealand need to be IPv6 literate.
He worries that some businesses have the attitude of “it will never happen to me”, but the number of IPv6 users is only increasing.
But so far businesses are getting on board.
A survey of the 100 New Zealand firms with the most computing devices conducted by the New Zealand IPv6 task force in June/July last year found all businesses surveyed knew about IPv6 and 61 percent aimed to enable IPv6 within one to two years.
And Mr Clark says it does not have to be hard or scary to adopt IPv6. He says some organisations such as the Ministry of Culture and Heritage have found it is easiest to implement IPv6 from the outside in, starting with their publically accessible websites and email accounts.
“It can be really easy to at least make yourself visible [on IPv6],” Mr Clark says.
If businesses have not begun working out how they are going to enable IPv6, the first thing they need to do is talk to their IT department or consultants and ask what is happening.
“If they don’t have an answer, fire them,” Mr Clark says.
Enabling IPv6 is not urgent yet, but the longer people wait the harder it could be.
“This is not something absolutely critical that has to happen now, but you should be planning for it.”
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