An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two main functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing.
Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) defines an IP address as a 32-bit number. However, because of the growth of the Internet and the depletion of available IPv4 addresses, a new version of IP (IPv6), using 128 bits for the IP address, was standardized in 1998. IPv6 deployment has been ongoing since the mid-2000s.
IP addresses are written and displayed in human-readable notations, such as 172.16.254.1 in IPv4, and 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 in IPv6. The size of the routing prefix of the address is designated in CIDR notation by suffixing the address with the number of significant bits, e.g., 192.168.1.15/24, which is equivalent to the historically used subnet mask 255.255.255.0.
The IP address space is managed globally by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and by five regional Internet registries (RIRs) responsible in their designated territories for assignment to local Internet registries, such as Internet service providers, and other end users. IPv4 addresses were distributed by IANA to the RIRs in blocks of approximately 16.8 million addresses each, but have been exhausted at the IANA level since 2011. Only one of the RIRs still has a supply for local assignments in Africa. Some IPv4 addresses are reserved for private networks and are not globally unique.
Network administrators assign an IP address to each device connected to a network. Such assignments may be on a static (fixed or permanent) or dynamic basis, depending on network practices and software features.
What Is My IP?
WhatIsMyIP.com® is the industry leader in providing REAL IP address information. We provide IP address tools that allow users to perform an Internet Speed Test, IP address lookup, proxy detection, IP Whois Lookup, and more. We have extensive tutorials that show users how to trace an email address, how to change IP addresses, and how to hide their IP information. Knowing your IP address is crucial for online gaming, tech support, using remote desktop connections, connecting to a security camera DVR, anonymity or even running an email server. If you’ve got questions about IP addresses and can’t find the answer on our site, feel free to post your question in our IP Address Q & A section.
What Is An IP Address?
IP Address (Internet Protocol Address)
This number is an exclusive number on all information technology devices (printers, routers, modems, etc) use which identifies and allows them the ability to communicate with each other on a computer network.
There is a standard of communication which is called an Internet Protocol (IP) standard. In layman’s terms, it is the same as your home address. In order for you to receive snail mail at home, the sending party must have your correct mailing address (IP address) in your town (network) or you do not receive bills, pizza coupons or your tax refund. The same is true for all equipment on the internet. Without this specific address, information cannot be received. IP addresses may either be assigned permanently for an Email server/Business server or a permanent home resident or temporarily, from a pool of available addresses (first come first serve) from your Internet Service Provider. A permanent number may not be available in all areas and may cost extra so be sure to ask your ISP.
Domain Name System (DNS): This allows the IP address to be translated to words. It is much easier for us to remember a word than a series of numbers. The same is true for email addresses.
For example, it is much easier for you to remember a web address name such as whatismyip.com than it is to remember 192.168.1.1 or in the case of email it is much easier to remember firstname.lastname@example.org than email@example.com
Dynamic IP Address: An IP address that is not static and could change at any time. This IP address is issued to you from a pool of IP addresses allocated by your ISP or DHCP Server. This is for a large number of customers that do not require the same IP Address all the time for a variety of reasons. Your computer will automatically get this number as it logs on to the network and saves you the trouble of having to know details regarding the specific network configurations. This number can be assigned to anyone using a dial-up connection, wireless, and high-speed internet connections. If you need to run your own email server or web server, it would be best to have a static IP.
Static IP Address: An IP address that is fixed and never changes. This is in contrast to a dynamic IP address which may change at any time. Most ISP’s have a single static IP or a block of static IP’s for a few extra bucks a month.
IP version 4: Currently used by most network devices. However, with more and more computers accessing the internet, IPv4 addresses are running out quickly. Just like in a city, addresses have to be created for new neighborhoods but, if your neighborhood gets too large, you will have to come up with an entirely new pool of addresses. IPv4 is limited to 4,294,967,296 addresses.
IP version 5: This is an experimental protocol for UNIX based systems. In keeping with standard UNIX (a computer Operating System) release conventions, all odd-numbered versions are considered experimental. It was never intended to be used by the general public.
IP version 6: The replacement for the aging IPv4. The estimated number of unique addresses for IPv6 is 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 or 2^128.
The old and current standard of addresses was this: 192.168.100.100 and the new way can be written different ways but means the same and are all valid:
What Is IPv6?
What is IPv6?
Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the replacement for IPv4. Due to the exhaustion of IPv4 as well as our ever expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), IP version 6 will allow many more devices to seamlessly connect to the internet. As this new version of IP addresses rolls out, here’s what you need to know.
What does an IPv6 address look like?
A version 6 address contains eight groups of four hexadecimal digits with the groups being separated by colons. An example would be 2600:1005:b062:61e4:74d7:f292:802c:fbfd. IPv4 addresses look much different. An example IPv4 would be 188.8.131.52. Four octets separated by decimals. Each octet ranges from 0 to 255. Comparing IPv4 to IPv6, it’s easy to see how IPv6 offers substantially more available addresses. There are many other benefits to IPv6, but require a more in-depth understanding of IP addresses and we don’t want to bore you with our geek speak.
Can I avoid getting an updated IP address?
Not sure why you would want to, but it could be possible. Your router or device used to connect to your ISP may have an option within the interface that would disable this feature. Find this option, disable it, and see if your ISP assigns you an IPv4 address. This option is not available on all connecting devices. You’ll need to research your make and model to determine if this is an option.
Why don’t I have an IP version 6
This protocol is slowly replacing IPv4. It’ll be up to your ISP as to when they start assigning these new addresses to their users.
Without IP Addresses, the Internet Would Disappear.
What? You don’t know what an IP address is used for?
Don’t worry. Most of the billions of computer users don’t know either, and to tell you the truth, that’s perfectly alright. Because even though it’s your passport to the Internet, you never have to think about it.
Here’s a “pocket definition” that you can use if someone asked. “It’s a network address for your computer so the Internet knows where to send you emails, data and pictures of cats.”
That puts you way ahead of the curve. In fact, 98% of people on computers right now don’t know what an IP address even looks like.
Let me explain.
Show and tell
It always helps to see an IP address example.
Let’s see yours. Here it is:184.108.40.206
Don’t get too attached. It’s not permanent—you’ll find out why in a bit…
But for now, somehow you found your way to this website and page about the “IP address.” And unless you’re a “techie,” you may not have more than a passing idea what an IP address is or how it works. (“It has to do with networking or something,” is the usual guess.)
Let’s clear up this concept for you, just to give you an idea of why the misunderstood IP address is very important to our lives.
Don’t worry. We promise not to get to techie on you.
In the end, you’ll love your IP address.
The IP address is a fascinating product of modern computer technology designed to allow one connected computer (or “smart” device) to communicate with another device over the Internet.
IP addresses allow the location of literally billions of digital devices that are connected to the Internet to be pinpointed and differentiated from other devices.
Because, in the same way, you to need a mailing address to receive a letter in the mail from a friend, a remote computer needs your IP address to communicate with your computer.
Here’s the deal…
- Your house has a street address to get mail; your connected device has an Internet address to get and receive data on the Web.
- Your home as a street number; your laptop, smartphone or your lights, baby monitor, thermostat (anything device that connects to the Internet and works wirelessly) has an Internet number. (That’s what the Internet of Things is all about.)
So, what does an IP address tell you? It lets you know you are connected to the Internet.
It’s important because it follows rules of connectivity, so you don’t need to think about it.
Maybe this definition will help.
The word protocol refers to a standard of guidelines, and that’s a key part of the definition. The networking part of the Internet is defined by exact specifications (guidelines) for connecting on the Internet.
The IP address you’re using at any given time is your device’s “digital address” that allows a connection to the systematically laid-out, interconnected grid that governs global connectivity.
But can you be sure IP address is 100% reliable?
When anyone pops a letter in a mailbox, you don’t think about its route, or how many trucks the postal office uses, or how many packages the letter carrier delivers a day. You just want it to go to the right address.
Want to know something extra cool?
Every website (Disney, Amazon, Apple, etc.) has a unique IP address, but it goes by its name instead (Disney.com, Amazon.com, Apple.com.) But without IP addresses you couldn’t connect with them and they couldn’t share information with you.
The IPv4 Address.
The common type of IP address (is known as IPv4, for “version 4”). Here’s an example of what an IP address might look like:220.127.116.11
An IPv4 address consists of four numbers, each of which contains one to three digits, with a single dot (.) separating each number or set of digits. Each of the four numbers can range from 0 to 255.
Thanks to our IP addresses, we’re pretty much guaranteed that our emails will come and go as expected and that all our Google searches and website visits will work to perfection.
IP addresses connect automatically in the background, so we can focus on what’s important.
This versatile group of segmented numbers creates the addresses that let you and everyone around the globe to send and retrieve data over our Internet connections.
Without this numeric protocol, sending and receiving data over the World Wide Web would be impossible.
What would happen if we ran out of IP addresses?
A shortage of IP addresses created panic and desperation.
Guess what—we did!
Suddenly, major companies (even Microsoft!) were scrambling to buy unused IP addresses from other companies…for millions of dollars.
What went wrong?
The past decade has seen explosive growth in mobile devices including mobile phones, notebook computers, and wireless handheld devices. The format for IPv4 wasn’t designed to handle the sheer number of IP addresses.
Fortunately, there was a backup IP address type waiting in the wings.
Goodbye IPv4. Hello IPv6.
It’s called IPv6 and it offers a maximum number of IP address for today and for the future.
Whereas IPv4 supports a maximum of approximately 4.3 billion unique IP addresses, IPv6 supports, in theory, a maximum number that will never run out.
A theoretical maximum of 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. To be exact. In other words, we will never run out of IP addresses again.
An IPv6 address consists of eight groups of four hexadecimal digits. If a group consists of four zeros, the notation can be shortened using a colon to replace the zeros. Here’s an example IPv6 address:
If you have a question about IPv6 and want to learn more, visit our Learning Center, where you can read an IPv6 Q&A for everybody.
An IP address serves two principal functions. It identifies the host, or more specifically its network interface, and it provides the location of the host in the network, and thus the capability of establishing a path to that host. Its role has been characterized as follows: “A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A route indicates how to get there.” The header of each IP packet contains the IP address of the sending host and that of the destination host.
Two versions of the Internet Protocol are in common use on the Internet today. The original version of the Internet Protocol that was first deployed in 1983 in the ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet, is Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4).
The rapid exhaustion of IPv4 address space available for assignment to Internet service providers and end-user organizations by the early 1990s prompted the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to explore new technologies to expand the addressing capability on the Internet. The result was a redesign of the Internet Protocol which became eventually known as Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) in 1995. IPv6 technology was in various testing stages until the mid-2000s when commercial production deployment commenced.
Today, these two versions of the Internet Protocol are in simultaneous use. Among other technical changes, each version defines the format of addresses differently. Because of the historical prevalence of IPv4, the generic term IP address typically still refers to the addresses defined by IPv4. The gap in version sequence between IPv4 and IPv6 resulted from the assignment of version 5 to the experimental Internet Stream Protocol in 1979, which however was never referred to as IPv5.
IP networks may be divided into subnetworks in both IPv4 and IPv6. For this purpose, an IP address is recognized as consisting of two parts: the network prefix in the high-order bits and the remaining bits called the rest field, a host identifier, or interface identifier (IPv6), used for host numbering within a network. The subnet mask or CIDR notation determines how the IP address is divided into network and host parts.
The term subnet mask is only used within IPv4. Both IP versions, however, use the CIDR concept and notation. In this, the IP address is followed by a slash and the number (in decimal) of bits used for the network part, also called the routing prefix. For example, an IPv4 address and its subnet mask maybe 192.0.2.1 and 255.255.255.0, respectively. The CIDR notation for the same IP address and subnet is 192.0.2.1/24 because the first 24 bits of the IP address indicate the network and subnet.
IP addresses are classified into several classes of operational characteristics: unicast, multicast, anycast and broadcast addressing.
The most common concept of an IP address is in unicast addressing, available in both IPv4 and IPv6. It normally refers to a single sender or a single receiver and can be used for both sending and receiving. Usually, a unicast address is associated with a single device or host, but a device or host may have more than one unicast address. Sending the same data to multiple unicast addresses requires the sender to send all the data many times over, once for each recipient.
Broadcasting is an addressing technique available in IPv4 to address data to all possible destinations on a network in one transmission operation as an all-hosts broadcast. All receivers capture the network packet. The address 255.255.255.255 is used for network broadcast. In addition, a more limited directed-broadcast uses the all-ones host address with the network prefix. For example, the destination address used for directed broadcast to devices on the network 192.0.2.0/24 is 192.0.2.255.
IPv6 does not implement broadcast addressing and replaces it with multicast to the specially defined all-nodes multicast address.
A multicast address is associated with a group of interested receivers. In IPv4, addresses 18.104.22.168 through 22.214.171.124 (the former Class D addresses) are designated as multicast addresses. IPv6 uses the address block with the prefix ff00::/8 for multicast. In either case, the sender sends a single datagram from its unicast address to the multicast group address and the intermediary routers take care of making copies and sending them to all interested receivers (those that have joined the corresponding multicast group).
Like broadcast and multicast, anycast is a one-to-many routing topology. However, the data stream is not transmitted to all receivers, just the one which the router decides is closest to the network. Anycast addressing is a built-in feature of IPv6. In IPv4, anycast addressing is implemented with the Border Gateway Protocol using the shortest-path metric to choose destinations. Anycast methods are useful for global load balancing and are commonly used in distributed DNS systems.
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