In this post I will give you a quick and free solution to making sure your website is IPv6 compatible. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry I’ll explain that too. Not in a way that would satisfy a computer geek perhaps, but from the viewpoint of you as a website owner.
You see, the protocol that is used for connecting various devices to the web, IPv4, was invented in the 1970s. It was built to accommodate about 4 billion devices connecting to the network. At the time that probably felt very much like an unlimited amount, but with the incredible growth of of the internet we are very soon reaching a point where no more devices can be connected to the web.
The solution to the problem was the creation of the IPv6 protocol which will allow for the continued growth of the internet, but with one very significant crux – IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible with each other.
So a user connected to the web through the IPv6 protocol (currently used by about 1 percent of the internet’s users) can’t connect to sites running on the IPv4 protocol – and vice versa.
In plain English: without IPv6 compatibility on your web server a growing number of web users won’t be able to access your site.
One would think that all web hosts are up to speed on handling the situation, but as Stefan Fouant pointed out in a blog post from last year that is certainly not something you can assume. Ask your hosting provider right now what their stance is on this issue.
Regardless of how compatible your hosting is, there is something you can do today that will not only guarantee that your site is compatible with both protocols right now, but it will also speed up your site, reduce bandwidth usage and increase site security.
And it’s free.
It is a service called Cloudflare, and like the name implies it revolves around the concept of “cloud hosting” – essentially serving a copy of your website from a server that is closer to the end user. You can also read more about the whole IPv6 dilemma, as well as the solution they are offering on their blog.
Good results so far
I have tried out Cloudflare on a handful of my sites (not this one yet), and I must say that I have been nothing but impressed. It significantly reduces page load time (an important ranking factor!), stops many spammers in their tracks and now apparently it also offer a true one click solution to the IPv6 issue. And I’m not just pitching you here either – with Cloudflare installed for your domain all it really takes is to click one button. It is really rather surprising that they can offer such a beneficial service for free. I sincerely hope that isn’t something they plan on changing in the future.
UPDATED NOTICE: As the signature “Aspen” pointed out in a comment to this post, the Cloudflare terms of service says that they may make changes to some of the code on your pages. Most of it is to improve security, such as preventing email harvesting, but they also say that they may “Add tracking codes or affiliate codes to links that do not previously have tracking or affiliate codes”. Personally I think this is fine, as this is a free service after all and since any potential affiliate link on my sites usually already is an affiliate link ;-). Nonetheless, this is of course something you should be aware of before signing up.
If you run your site on WordPress, Shane Melaugh has written a really good tutorial on how to improve your website performance with Cloudflare.
And in order to test the IPv6 compatibility both of your site and for your own web browsing needs you can go here. Click the link “website test” for testing your own sites.
If you find out that you can’t connect to IPv6 sites through your own browser (very likely the case) you have to get in touch with your ISP and ask them what they are going to do about it.