This post was written by Tom Morton, Wikimedia UK developer
Wikimedia UK’s main websites are now available over IPv6. For most of our visitors this won’t have any effect, as this is still new technology. However, it is a big step toward future proofing our infrastructure for the years to come.
The internet relies on Internet Protocol (or IP) addresses to function – whenever you type a website into the browser address bar it is translated, silently, into a unique IP address for the server hosting the site. Currently, most of the internet use Internet Protocol Version 4. You may have seen an IPv4 address before, it looks like a long string of numbers. For example the IP address of the web server hosting this blog is 188.8.131.52.
But in recent years there has been a growing problem! There are only a finite amount of IPv4 addresses – around 4.3 billion of them. That might sound a lot, but then the internet is an increasingly large place, and if *everyone* and *every server* needs a unique address then they can quickly disappear. This, and other problems with the protocol, meant that a replacement was needed.
So to fix the impending disaster, Internet Protocol version 6 was developed (please don’t ask what happened to version 5!). This increased the available addresses to, well, bazillions.
Implementing these sorts of technical solutions can take many years. Version 6 has been in development from the early 1990s, and is still only accounting for just 3% of the entire internet traffic.
But it doesn’t hurt to move with the times. So Wikimedia UK websites; including the wiki and this blog are now available on an IPv6 address, alongside IPv4 (for those interested, the new address is 2a00:1a48:7803:0107:ed9f:35b6:ff08:0610). It may only help one or two people a year, but it is part of the charities commitment to moving forward with robust technology.
If you are interested in helping Wikimedia UK develop exciting new technologies then why not consider joining our Technology Committee – we are always looking for fresh input and insight!