In a recent post we highlighted some of the media coverage regarding the imminent demise of the IPv4 address space. Subsequently, during a moment of introspection, I realized there is another angle to the story. I first assumed that some of the lobbying for IPv6 was a hardware-vendor-driven phenomenon; but there seems to be another aspect to the momentum of Ipv6. In talking to customers over the past year, I learned they were already buying routers that were IPv6 ready, but there was no real rush. If you look at a traditional router’s sales numbers over the past couple years, you won’t find anything earth shattering. There is no hockey-stick curve to replace older equipment. Most of the IPv6 hardware sales were done in conjunction with normal upgrade time lines.
The hype had to have another motive, and then it hit me. Could it be that the push to IPv6 is a back-door opportunity for a walled-off garden? A collaboration between large ISPs, a few large content providers, and mobile device suppliers?
Although the initial world of IPv6 day offered no special content, I predict some future IPv6 day will have the incentive of extra content. The extra content will be a treat for those consumers with IPv6-ready devices.
The wheels for a closed off Internet are already in place. Take for example all the specialized apps for the iPhone and iPad. Why can’t vendors just write generic apps like they do for a regular browser? Proprietary offerings often get stumbled into. There are very valid reasons for specialized apps for the iPhone, and no evil intent on the part of Apple, but it is inevitable that as their market share of mobile devices rises, vendors will cease to write generic apps for general web browsers.
I don’t contend that anybody will deliberately conspire to create an exclusively IPv6 club with special content; but I will go so far as to say in the fight for market share, product managers know a good thing when they see it. If you can differentiate content and access on IPv6, you have an end run around on the competition.
To envision how a walled garden might play out on IPv6, you must first understand that it is going to be very hard to switch the world over to IPv6 and it will take a long time – there seems to be agreement on that. But at the same time, a small number of companies control a majority of the access to the Internet and another small set of companies control a huge swatch of the content.
Much in the same way Apple is obsoleting the generic web browser with their apps, a small set of vendors and providers could obsolete IPv4 with new content and new access.