The world of the internet is massive beyond comprehension. So much so that some liken it to the universe itself. Every day millions of people come on the internet the many things it offers, from searching for information, relaying communication, and playing games to work. To do all that, though, you’ll need a computer, phone, or tablet that’s connected to the internet.
All computers, phones, tablets, and devices connected to the internet or other networks have unique identifiers. These identifiers are called ‘Internet Protocol Address’ or IP address. No two devices can share the same IP address, and without these addresses, computers, phones, and tablets wouldn’t be able to communicate. And almost all networks use the TCP/IP protocol to communicate with each other.
To help you understand more about IP addresses, let’s look at some of the basics below:
From IPv4 to IPv6
When the internet was first coming into use, an IPv4 address was the standard. IPv4 creates a unique address for your network/system by using 32 binary bits. In an IPv4 address, there are four numbers separated by dots, with each number being the decimal representation of an eight-digit binary number called an octet. For example, 184.108.40.206.
This was good enough until the internet exploded, at which point people realized that having a limit of 4.3 billion unique options as provided by IPv4 would not be enough. Then came the IPv6 protocol, which used 128 binary bits to create a unique address, expressed by eight groups of hexadecimal numbers separated by colons instead of dots. For example: 2001:cdba:0000:0000:0000:0000:3257:9652.
Static address vs. Dynamic address
There are two types of IP addresses: static and dynamic. Static addresses are self-configured by making changes to your computer’s network settings. If you’re not versed in TCP/IP, you can cause frustrating network issues by changing static addresses yourself.
On the other hand, dynamic addresses are generated by the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). Network routers or DHCP servers provide this service.
An IP address has two parts. One part tells the network about the area you live in (i.e., your host), and the other part represents you. For example, suppose the first address is 192.168.1.0, and the subnet mask is 255.255.255.0. Then the network could have addresses ranging from 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.1.255.
In an IPv4 system, there are some addresses reserved for specific purposes. These are recognized by Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). These include:
0.0.0.0 – This is the default network.
255.255.255.255 – This address is used to broadcast a message to every computer on the network.
127.0.0.1 – This is used to check whether a computer is assigned an address or not. It is also called the loopback address.
169.254.0.1 to 169.254.255.254 – These addresses are assigned automatically in case the DHCP server does not assign one.
VPNs and IP Address
Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are private networks that use the internet to share data amongst each other. When a system is using a VPN, its IP address is replaced by the one provided by the VPN service.
These unique IP addresses are sometimes used by administrators to block out specific internet traffic on their networks. This is done with firewall software that features modifiable blacklisted addresses for better control.
You should now have a better understanding of IP addresses and how/why they work. You might even be able to impress your friends with your new knowledge. Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below!