The Internet is set to witness a phenomenal change in 2012 with 5 major changes under way, having the potential to modify Internet history like never before. A technical upgrade is going to happen from Internet Protocol version 4 to version 6 and key Internet infrastructure and operations contracts controlled by the U.S federal government are going to be re-bid.
These and other milestones could well change the nature of Internet operations as well as who operates them:
New operator for root servers
The organization that oversees the operation of the Internet root servers, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has a contract that expires in March 2012. The non-profit has done this job since its foundation in 1998; however a new US based organization could soon be responsible for this important technical function.
Also, instead of renewing ICANN’s contract, the US government has opened up the bid to other US based organizations. The operation of root servers is overseen by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which reports to ICANN, and bids to the IANA function were due December 12 and the new contract will last from April 1, 2012 till March 31, 2015.
New company handling the .com registry
The .com domain has been handled by Verisign since 1999. It is the Internet’s most popular domain with millions of names registered, and Verisign’s agreement with ICANN to operate .com expires on Nov. 30, 2012. A definitive positive indicator for Verisign is ICANN renewing Verisign’s contract to operate the .net registry last June, meaning it will run the .net registry till 2017.
New top-level domain names in store
ICANN plans to launch up to 1000 new top-level generic domain names(gTLDs) such as .hotel and .paris through a new program around January 12. It has been a controversial program under discussion for six years, but finally ICANN is set to launch it, bringing about a big change to the Internet’s naming system since the foundation of ICANN itself in 1998.
ICANN has previously expanded the Internet space twice, once in 2000 adding domain names such as .biz and.info and then in 2004 adding names such as .asia and .jobs. But none of these have been particularly successful. As PC World reports “if ICANN's latest attempt to expand the domain name space succeeds, it could fundamentally change the way domain names are used.
Among the new categories of names that are expected to be approved include:
- Internationalised domain names in non-English language scripts
- Geographically oriented domains for cities and regions
- Domain names tied to specific interests
- Domain names tied to individual companies and brands
Additional 10,000 websites to support IPv6
US government agencies have been given September 30, 2012 as a deadline to support IPv6 on their public facing websites and web services. According to estimates, 10,000 websites fall under this mandate, and this could significantly drive IPv6 deployment in the United States and subsequently elsewhere in the following months.
A secondary requirement for government agencies is to upgrade internal client applications that communicate with public Internet servers so that they use native IPv6 as well, but the deadline for this is September 2014. Federal agencies also need to designate an IPv6 transition manager and purchase network hardware and software that comply with the government’s IPv6 testing process.
Featuring an expanding addressing scheme that can support billions of devices connected to the Internet, the IPv6 is however not backwards compatible with IPv4, meaning that network operators can either choose to support both protocols in dual-stack mode or translate between v4 and v6.
Europe expected to run out IPv4 addresses
According to Geoff Huston, adjunct research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Internet Architectures at Swinburne University of Technology, the European regional Internet registry, RIPE is expected to run out IPv4 addresses on July 22, 2012. Asia has already run out of IPv4 addresses in 2011, with a small fraction remaining which was reserved for start-up network operators. Similarly, the North
American registry is expected to run out of IPv4 addresses in 2013. This depletion of v4 addresses in various parts of the world could put pressure of US enterprises to begin transitioning their networks to v6. Comcast, for instance has said that it will offer production quality IPv6 services across its nationwide network in 2012. More such enterprises are expected to follow.