It’s been a long time coming but ICANN has finally opened the way for the full adoption of IPv6, the next version of the protocol that binds the Internet together.

The IP address authority has added IPv6 addresses to six of the world’s root server networks, meaning that DNS servers can access IPv6 addresses natively without the need to use IPv4, the older addressing system, in parallel.

The next-generation Internet Protocol has been discussed for many years but it’s only now that its adoption is being speeded up.

In 2006, The IPv6 Government Action Study found that the US had been dragging its feet in IPv6 adoption, despite there being a directive from the US Office of Management and Budget means that from the 30 June this year all military and federal agencies must move their backbone networks to support IPv6.

"The ISP community welcomes this development as part of the continuing evolution of the public Internet,” said Tony Holmes, chair of ICANN’s Internet Service and Connectivity Provider Constituency. “IPv6 will be an essential part our future and support in the root servers is essential to the growth, stability, and reliability of the public Internet.”

ICANN had previously added support for IPv6 to its root servers but this is the first time that it has actually added addresses.

The move by ICANN doesn’t yet mean that the Internet is now running on IPv6; seven of the root DNS servers are still to support the protocol and only a selected number of addresses were added to the servers that do support it. However, ICANN’s move means that the possibility of the world ever running out of IP addresses is even more remote now.

The “addition of IPv6 addresses for the root servers enhances the end-to-end connectivity for IPv6 networks, and furthers the growth of the global interoperable Internet,” said David Conrad, ICANN’s vice president of research and IANA strategy. “This is a major step forward for IPv6-only connectivity and the global migration to IPv6.”