The IPv6 protocol has been in the works for more than 15 years, since it was first realized that the pool of IPv4 addresses -- more than 25 years old -- couldn't keep up with the anticipated demand for Internet addressing. Interest in IPv6 has picked up considerably in the last few years, especially once the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) depleted its IPv4 address pool. The following is an IPv6 timeline of major milestones in the history of the Internet Protocol version 6.
IPv6 timeline: A history of the Internet Protocol
1981 Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is first published as a system of addresses used to identify devices on a network, although work on the protocol began in the 1970s. It is the most widely used Internet-layer protocol today and a key element in connecting devices to the Internet.
1990 Approximately one-eighth of total IPv4 address spaces are utilized as Internet use increases and more companies rely on it for information transport.
1992 Reacting to the rapidly dwindling number of IPv4 address spaces, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) calls for proposals on the development of a next-generation IP addressing protocol.
1997 IBM reacts to the growing need for IPv6 support and adds it to its AIX 4.3 Unix operating environment, the first commercial platform to support IPv6. This is followed by IPv6 early adopter kits for Tru64 and OpenVMS Digital Equipment Corp.'s operating systems.
1998 Microsoft Research prepares for the impending increased demand for IPv6 by releasing its first experimental IPv6 stack. Seeking further comment on the development of the basic IPv6 protocol, RFC 2460 is published. Production-quality Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) support for IPv6 is made available over the KAME project via FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD. (The KAME project was a joint effort of six companies in Japan to provide a free stack of IPv6, IPsec and Mobile IPv6 for BSD variations.)
1999 The IPv6 Forum is created, chartered to function as a worldwide consortium dedicated to creating a quality and secure next-generation Internet. It initially attracts 45 members. The Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) determine and allocate IPv6 ranges.
2000 Approximately half of total IPv4 address space has been utilized. Microsoft continues to show support for IPv6 and releases a technology preview of IPv6 for Windows 2000.
2001 Microsoft releases limited IPv6 support for research and testing on the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 SP1, and it releases Windows XP SP1 and Windows Server 2003 with an IPv6 stack. Meanwhile, Cisco Systems appears on the IPv6 scene, introducing Cisco IOS routers and L3 switches with IPv6 support.
2002 Approximately two-thirds of total IPv4 address space has been utilized. IBM gets behind IPv6 adoption and adds support to its z/OS, starting with version 1.4.
2003 The IETF continues to work on IPv6 development, publishing RFC 2553, Basic socket API and RFC 3315, DHCPv6. Apple releases its latest iteration of Mac OS X version 10.3, Panther, with IPv6 support. U.S. Department of Defense initiates IPv6 migration strategy.
2007 IPv6 support continues as the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) institutes an IPv6 addressing policy for large contiguous blocks and discontinues IPv4 allocations for this purpose. Microsoft releases Windows Vista with IPv6 support set as the default.
2008 The U.S. achieves IPv6 capability on all government systems, as required by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mandate, and the European Commission announces an initiative for 25% of users to adopt IPv6 by 2010. Google gets into the game and offers an IPv6 Web interface for its search engine, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing are the first major world events to be broadcast with IPv6.
2009 Google builds an extension of its IPv6 initiative, offering IPv6 support for Google services to compatible networks. As 85% of IPv4 address space is exhausted and IPv6 summits are held in Ireland, China and Korea, 2009 is unofficially called "The Year of IPv6."
2010 The IPv6 Forum recognizes the first IPv6 education and certification program from Learning@Cisco's professional networking portfolio.
February 3, 2011 The last block of IPv4 addresses is distributed to the RIRs by the IANA.
April 19, 2011 The IPv4 address pool is depleted for the Asian-Pacific RIR, Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).
June 8, 2011 The Internet Society (ISOC) organizes World IPv6 Day 2011 for organizations to simultaneously test their IPv6 deployments and turn it on for the day. Many organizations that experience no problems leave their IPv6 turned on.
September 14, 2012 The IPv4 address pool is depleted for the European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian RIR, Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC).
More resources on the IPv6 timeline and migration:
- Learn about the pros and cons of disabling IPv6 in Windows Vista.
- Learn how IPv6 differs from IPv4, and how to begin your IPv6 migration.
- Learn about the different IPv6 address types and how each format defines particular areas in a network.
- Understand how to transition IPv4 to IPv6 addresses in this tip, which describes the IPv4-mapped IPv6 address format.
- See how enterprises are making the IPv4 to IPv6 transition without changing their networks.