An IP Address is a string of numbers that is assigned to computers, routers, servers and devices that connect to the Internet. It works much like your home address in that it pinpoints the location of a device on the network. When you visit a website, it uses the IP address to find out which server is hosting that site.
Every device connected to the Internet has an IP address. From your smartphone to the internet-connected refrigerator, it’s all identified by an IP address. The internet is a packet-switched network, which means that information is broken down into small units called packets before it is sent. These packets are then routed to their destination based on the information contained in them. Each packet has an IP address that tells the routing system which network it should be delivered to.
The IP protocol has two primary functions: 1) providing a unique identity to network devices on the Internet and 2) specifying a device’s location on a given network. The first function is accomplished by using a Network Address Translation (NAT) process to convert a logical IP address read more into a physical address that is used to identify hardware devices in a network. The other function is accomplished by assigning a device an IP address via the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP).
There are two main versions of the IP protocol in use today – IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 provides space for 4 billion unique identifiers while the newer version, IPv6, allows for trillions.
Both versions of the protocol support multiple IP addressing schemes, each having different characteristics. For example, IPv4 addresses are 32-bit integers while IPv6 addresses are 128-bit integers. IPv6 also supports both letters and digits in its identifiers, making it more human-readable than the hexadecimal encoding used for IPv4 addresses.
Besides identifying network devices, IP addresses provide a number of other important pieces of information to systems on the network. For example, your IP address identifies you as a user of the internet and can be used to track activities like browsing history and online purchases. It can also be used to target ads based on your geographic location.
Your device’s IP address can also be used to determine your approximate location based on your Wi-Fi connection. This is important for streaming platforms who want to offer you content that is relevant to your region and other factors. Additionally, it can be used to protect your privacy by preventing hackers from tracking your activity on the internet.
In 2015, the unthinkable happened – we ran out of available IP addresses. As a result, major companies were forced to spend millions of dollars buying unused IP addresses from other organizations in order to maintain their ability to operate on the Internet. This situation prompted the development of IPv6 which offers even more unique identifiers than its predecessor, IPv4. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is ongoing. As more and more devices come online, understanding the importance of IP addresses is vital to ensuring their proper operation and security.