In terms of producing IPv6 content, no country comes close to the United States. Five of the 10 most popular websites on the Internet are IPv6 enabled - and they are all run by U.S. companies. These websites are Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo and Wikipedia. In contrast, Chinese Web properties Baidu and QQ - ranked 5th and 9th respectively in Alexa's global website rankings - don't support IPv6.
U.S. government Web sites also are leading the push towards IPv6. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports that 8 percent of the 1,517 federal Web sites that it tests weekly have turned on IPv6 support for DNS, mail and Web traffic, while another 34 percent of these Web sites are in the process of enabling IPv6 for these three services. While that still leaves 58 percent of U.S. government sites without IPv6 support, the NIST data reflects more progress than most other countries have made.
"The 42 percent of [U.S. government] domains that have made some progress towards IPv6 deployment is a significant accomplishment," says Doug Montgomery, manager of Internet & Scalable Systems Research at NIST's Information Technology Lab.
Federal agencies must support IPv6 on their externally facing websites by Sept. 30 under an Obama Administration mandate. Although many agencies won't meet that deadline, they are making significant progress on IPv6, industry observers say.
Akamai says that 35 federal agencies that operate 1,200 individual websites are using its dual-stack IPv6 and IPv4 platform to meet the IPv6 mandate. Akamai's network allows these agencies to accept IPv4 and IPv6 requests from users without having to change their internal platforms.
"We will have an additional 300 to 400 federal websites dual-stacked between now and Friday the 27th," Schweickert said.
Two years from now, federal agencies must support IPv6 on their internal networks under the Obama Administration mandate. Akamai is working on a new service that will allow agencies to use IPv6 to communicate between their edge and origin servers, rather than proxying this network traffic over IPv4 as it is done today.
"When I talk to public sector agencies in other countries, some of them are looking to mimic the U.S. mandate," Schweickert says. "I definitely see the U.S. as the leader on this front, and I see other public sector customers trying to put similar processes in place in their countries to get IPv6 adoption to increase as well."
The emergence of the United States as a leader in IPv6 deployment comes at a time when both Asia and Europe have run out of all but small reserves of their IPv4 address space.
The European Internet registry -- RIPE NCC -- announced earlier this month that it had distributed all but its last /8 block of IPv4 addresses, which has around 16.7 million addresses. RIPE NCC has gone into conservation mode and will now allocate only 1,024 IPv4 addresses at a time to European network operators. Asia reached a similar milestone in April 2011.