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YouTube arrives on next-gen IPv6 network

By making its video site available over Internet Protocol version 6, Google takes another step toward solving the chicken-and-egg problem inherent in moving to the next-gen Net addressing system.

Google has made YouTube available over IPv6 in an effort to encourage more use of the next-generation and more capacious Internet addressing system.

The transition from the current Internet Protocol version 4 has been slow and difficult for the computing industry. But Google has been gradually making its services available over IPv6, including search in March 2008, to those with sufficiently reliable connections.

The number of IPv4 Internet addresses still unused is steadily dropping toward zero, according to Comcast.
The number of IPv4 Internet addresses still unused is steadily dropping toward zero, according to Comcast. Comcast

"The service most requested to have IPv6 support has unquestionably been YouTube," said Lorenzo Colitti and Steinar H. Gunderson, Google IPv6 network experts, in a blog post Friday. "Given all of this, we're proud to make YouTube available over IPv6 and to begin streaming videos from a select number of sites worldwide to our Google over IPv6 partners."

Because IPv6 hasn't been backward compatible with IPv4, its adoption has been a classic chicken-and-egg problem in the industry. With no services available, there was little incentive to built out the new IPv6 network to attach to them, and with no network, there was little incentive for services.

That's gradually changing, though, as the number of unused IPv4 addresses dwindles away. Google, among others, has been trying to nudge the world toward IPv6.

One big gating factor to IPv6 adoption is support by Internet service providers. Comcast is testing the IPv6 waters, though, with a trial program this year for its customers.

"In 2010, we will be conducting several IPv6 technical trials in our production network, with customers, in order to prepare for the IPv6 transition," Comcast said on its form for volunteering for IPv6 trial. "We will consider all volunteers."

The big advantage IPv6 has over IPv4 is the number of unique addresses it can accommodate--4.3 billion for IPv4 compared to about 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 for IPv6. Although 4.3 billion may sound like a lot, addresses are often allocated in large blocks that mean many aren't generally available, and some experts forecast an end to new IPv4 addresses in 2011.

Corrected Aug. 9 with the actual number of total IPv6 addresses available.