Several of the world's largest ISPs and websites have committed to permanently enabling IPv6 -- the next-generation Internet Protocol -- on their products and services starting June 6, 2012.
AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable were among seven global ISPs that have committed to this deadline, along with some of the world's most popular websites including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing.
All of these companies announced that they are meeting this deadline as participants of an event dubbed World IPv6 Launch, which is being organised by the US Internet Society.
"The fact that leading companies across several industries are making significant commitments to participate in World IPv6 Day Launch is yet another indication that IPv6 is no longer a lab experiment; it's here and is an important next step in the internet's evolution," said Leslie Daigle, the Internet Society's chief information technology officer, in a statement.
The ISPs participating in World IPv6 Launch have agreed to enable IPv6 for enough users so that at least 1 percent of their wireline residential subscribers will use IPv6 to visit IPv6-enabled websites. Other participating ISPs include Japan's KDDI, France's Free Telecom, Australia's Internode and the Netherlands' XS4ALL.
IPv6 is a replacement for IPv4, the internet's main communications protocol which is running out of address space. IPv6 is not backward-compatible with IPv4, so network and website operators must upgrade their hardware and software to support it. IPv6 features an expanded addressing scheme that can support billions of devices connected directly to the internet.
"We've seen unprecedented growth in network traffic over the past several years, and IPv6 is critical to the continuation of that growth," said John Donovan, CTO of AT&T, in a statement. "We're excited to participate in World IPv6 Launch by enabling IPv6 services for new and existing residential customers in addition to the enterprise customers we support with IPv6 today."
The participating websites such as Facebook and Google have agreed to permanently enable IPv6 on their main websites beginning June 6. Content delivery networks Akamai and Limelight also have agreed to enable IPv6 throughout their infrastructures by this deadline to enable their customers to support the new protocol in production mode.
"World IPv6 Launch marks a watershed moment in Internet history," commented Vint Cerf, chief Internet evangelist at Google. "Google strongly supports this upgrade. We're happy to see that everyone is moving to the 21st-Century Internet!"
Additionally, two home networking equipment manufacturers -- Cisco and D-Link -- have agreed to enable IPv6 by default through the range of their home router products by the June 6 deadline.
World IPv6 Launch is a follow-on event to the original World IPv6 Day, which was held on June 8, 2011. The highly successful 2011 event attracted 400-plus corporate, government and university participants that deployed IPv6 on more than 1000 websites for the day.