Creating Demand for IPv6 through a Killer App
by Simon Cornelius P. Umacob
Cebu City, Philippines
The killer app for IPv6 is mobile social networking. The innovation is on how this is deployed on a decentralized infrastructure.
The idea: challenge Facebook's dominance through the mobile space, and improve the way of doing social networking.
I'll show it to you and explain why people need this.
The Internet is on the brink of change. As the Internet continues to experience unprecedented growth, the method for identifying each computer becomes more and more cumbersome. Born at a time where networking was of interest to the academe and military only, the Internet was designed with only a few users in mind.
This method for identification, which is called the IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4), is reaching its limits. Countries all over the world recognize the growth and opportunistic importance of an IP upgrade, and are mandating the adoption of the next generation protocol, IPv6.
As of October 2010, less than 5% of the IPv4 address space remains. Supply of IPv4 addresses is almost depleted.
One major problem: despite the benefits that IPv6 provide, telcos are reluctant to embrace this protocol since there is no demand from consumers yet.
From a business perspective, there is little motivation to supply IPv6 if there is no demand. Current equipment and services work with IPv4, and most customers don't run IPv6-enabled applications. There is little benefit in offering IPv6 services if there is no critical mass of adopters. Telcos are forced to sit and wait until the last minute before they can migrate to IPv6. Thus, telcos will come unprepared when demand for IPv6 will suddenly surge. We have a classic chicken and egg problem.
Solution: create customer demand.
We can create customer demand by taking advantage of one important IPv6 advantage: the ability to give each customer a public address. This advantage can really be felt with a device for mobile social networking. It can be used to jump-start IPv6 adoption in YTL's 4G network.
The components to implement this already exist, so most of the work is done. A prototype is in development. We only need to integrate and enhance the components to turn them into a final product. Estimated time for an initial prototype is 2 to 3 weeks. Estimated time for a working prototype with a test infrastructure is 4 to 8 weeks.
A realistic estimate for an initial product release can't be accurately assessed without further investigation and breakdown of tasks, but here are the remaining work that needs to be done:
- Setting up of IPv6 in YTL's core network.
- Full integration of the application in Android. The prototype needs to be integrated for consumer use.
- Development of the user interface. The prototype uses an open source application, so we need to fork our own version in order to control the development schedule. Our changes will then be contributed back to the community to indirectly drive worldwide adoption of this system.
- Development of CPE (customer premise equipment) that would provide IPv6 connectivity to the end-user.
- Quality testing.
We'll turn each mobile device into a web server platform. We'll give each of these devices an IPv6 address, making them accessible all over the world. We can't do this with IPv4 because the devices would have to be put behind layers of NAT (Network Address Translation).
Next is to put something useful into that web server. The most useful application, from a customer's point of view, is social networking. Humans are social beings; we all have an inherent need to connect.
Lastly, we'll solve a major issue that affect existing social networking applications today: sharing of large files.
With the advent of affordable DSLR cameras, customers have been acquiring gigabytes of high quality photos at an ever increasing rate. They need an instant way of sharing these photos without quality degradation. The current model of uploading the files to Facebook is cumbersome because a typical high-resolution JPEG photo is 5MB. A RAW photo is 10MB. Multiply this by a few hundred, and the size becomes unwieldy.
We can solve this by not requiring the customers to upload anything at all. If they want to share their whole photo album, they will simply let others pull the data from them. If they want to share their live video or music stream, they will simply let others connect to them directly. They can further organize their files by storing them on their home file servers, which are integrated to their mobile phones. We can't do this with IPv4 because there's no way to have such level of end-to-end connectivity.
Think of Facebook, and think of how social networking has changed our lives. It is a wonderful phenomenon, and it has helped us connect with friends and relatives all over the world.
Yet, because of IPv4's limitations, we have surrendered all of our personal data to a single corporation. Although this was undesirable from an Internet security perspective, this was necessary because we needed to centralize our data in order for Facebook, or other social networking applications, to function.
With IPv6, however, we can eliminate the middle man. Instead of using Facebook to connect to other people, we can simply connect to each other. This means we need to challenge Facebook, and put our own data into our own hands, the mobile phone.
(see the attached diagram for the proposed architecture or download it from http://goo.gl/cR7CK)
The technology to realize this vision is already here. First, we have WiMAX. This means that connecting a mobile phone to the Internet 24/7 has become economically feasible. Next, we have IPv6. With IPv6, each mobile phone will have its own unique IP address that is accessible all over the world. Used with an IPv6-capable DNS server, each mobile phone can have its own website address as well.
This is the key to mass adoption. Not long ago, only web hosting companies and knowledgeable geeks were capable of creating their own web servers. Although various products, such as Wordpress and Blogger, were made to help people create user content, the infrastructure to support these was still out of reach from most people.
This will all change with IPv6.
With IPv6, each mobile phone will have its own website address. This mental shift on how we perceive the mobile phone has very important implications. Phone users will prefer to use this easy-to-remember name instead of a cumbersome number. Instead of simply calling your phone, users will engage with your online presence instead. Your mobile phone will become your own web server.
Lastly, we have an open source answer to Facebook: Diaspora.
“Diaspora aims to be a distributed network, where totally separate computers connect to each other directly, will let us connect without surrendering our privacy. We call these computers ‘seeds’. A seed is owned by you, hosted by you, or on a rented server. Once it has been set up, the seed will aggregate all of your information: your Facebook profile, tweets, anything. We are designing an easily extendable plugin framework for Diaspora, so that whenever newfangled content gets invented, it will be automagically integrated into every seed.” (http://www.joindiaspora.com/2010/04/21/a-little-more-about-the-project.html)
Everything is in place. We just need to integrate these components and enhance them according to our needs. The killer app for IPv6 is mobile social networking, simplified to work out-of-the-box, and deployed on an innovative infrastructure.
Convergence: Trends that will drive the adoption of IPv6 social networking
- The decline of Facebook's cool factor. Facebook is no longer the sole domain of teenagers as adults--their parents and relatives--jump into the bandwagon. Teenagers do not appreciate the intrusion of adults into their own exclusive world. They are starting to look elsewhere. Facebook's popularity may be rising, but its coveted demographic (18-34 yr. olds) is declining. The time is ripe to capture this demographic.
- The rise of a new generation that was born into the age of Internet-- the digital natives. These digital natives are starting to become aware of the privacy issues that surround Facebook. They are well-educated on Internet security. They are more open to sharing, yet they want more control on how and what information they can share.
- Nationwide WiMAX rollout in Malaysia.
- Government policy. The Malaysian government has full support for WiMAX, IPv6, and Mobile Internet Adoption. They are key components in the MyICMS 886 (Malaysian Information, Communications and Multimedia Services 886) Strategy.
- The rising ubiquity of mobile Internet devices, as shown with the success of iPhone, iPad and Android devices. New devices with better processor and lower power consumption are being released.
- Growing popularity of digital photography. With the advent of affordable DSLR cameras, customers have been acquiring gigabytes of high quality photos at an ever increasing rate.
- Mainstream IPv6 support. Starting with Windows Vista and Windows 7, IPv6 has been enabled by default. This means that Windows users will automatically have IPv6 if their routers or ISP support it.
- Open Source movement. By collaborating with programmers to achieve a common goal, companies (even competing ones!) are able to reduce their development time, enabling them to enter the market faster. We can implement this proposal with Open Source components.
- Growing awareness of the C10K problem, a limitation in most web servers that limits the web server's capabilities to only handle about ten thousand simultaneous connections. Awareness of this problem drove programmers to create high-performance, yet lightweight (i.e., requiring little CPU and memory resources) servers such as nginx and lighttpd. Lightweight servers are suitable for embedded devices.
- Facebook has purchased most of drop.io, an online content-sharing service. This means Facebook has also recognized the importance of giving users a venue to pull large content from each other.
Strategy for Creating IPv6 Demand
The more exclusive something appears to be, the more someone will want it. Therefore, we need to create a group of early IPv6 adopters who will be the envy of current IPv4 Internet users in Malaysia.
Here's one idea: give this product to a celebrity and create a nationwide contest where customers will guess his current location based on his live status feed. How to access his live feed? Through his Diaspora seed.
The beauty with this proposal is that only those who have IPv6 access will be able to access the seeds. This means that at first, only a select few can have access to the websites. These select few are no other than customers of YTL's 4G network.
Naturally, this creates exclusivity, guaranteeing that people will flock to YTL's network. These people will then become the early majority. The key is to create a critical mass of adopters who will jump-start the change to IPv6.
We need to educate the world about IPv6. We can achieve this by creating value to this next-generation protocol. Mobile social networking creates this value. Mobile social networking creates demand for IPv6.
Imagine a world where your friend from the other side of the globe can call your mobile phone for free. Imagine a world where you can watch TV shows and movies from an international TV network with your mobile TV. The technologies to do these are already here, but the limitations of IPv4 prevent telcos from deploying them in a cost-effective manner.
By the time 4G is widely deployed, IPv4 address exhaustion will be in its final stages. Therefore, in the context of 4G, YTL must support IPv6. You can use this proposal to initiate such support.
Once demand for IPv6 has been established, YTL can then offer services that would further increase the virtuous cycle of IPv6 demand: VoIP (Voice over IP), IPTV (Internet Protocol television), and P2P (Peer-to-peer). Offering these services through IPv6 involves lower capital and operational expenses because the infrastructure required for supporting these is simpler, compared to IPv4.
Mobile social networking is step one to executing all these.
Appendix - Acronyms and Abbreviations
4G - 4th Generation
A record - address record; IPv4 address record
AAAA record - quad-A record; IPv6 address record
C10K - Refers to problem related with ten thousand (10K) Connections.
CPE - Customer Premise Equipment
CPU - Central Processing Unit
DNS - Domain Name System
DSLR - Digital Single-lens Reflex Camera
HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol
IP - Internet Protocol
IPTV - Internet Protocol television
IPv4 - Internet Protocol version 4
IPv6 - Internet Protocol version 6
MyICMS 886 - Malaysian Information, Communications and Multimedia Services 886
NAS - Network-attached Storage
NAT - Network Address Translation
P2P - Peer-to-peer
RAW - Raw image format
VoIP - Voice over IP
WiFi - Wireless Fidelity; no official definition
WiMAX - Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access