What is an IP Address?

The world operates through the use of roads, vehicles, cables and many other methods of transporting things. The internet is no different – it to needs to be able to transport things from one place to another. The difference here is what the internet transfers isn’t a physical object; it’s data. The internet is like roads, towns and buildings and the data is like the post (or mail). For a postman to deliver a parcel he needs an address or he can’t deliver it. The internet follows the same principle but has a key difference, and that is the addressing system that is used. The addresses on the internet are provided by the IP address system. IP addresses, like postal addresses are a logical address.

Now, your house has an address and it has a physical location. The address is logical and the location is physical. This is the same with IP addresses, IP’s are purely logical. There is another layer behind it which is the physical address. However, thankfully the underlying protocols mean that we don’t need to know about this.

Okay, I think I understand a bit about this “IP Address” thing… But what on earth is an “IP”?

The term “IP Address” stands for Internet Protocol Address and comes in two flavours, IP version 4 and IP version 6 (Commonly shown as IPv4 and IPv6) essentially they both serve the same purpose.

IPv4

We first implemented the Internet Protocol version 4 in 1983 in the ARPANET. IPv4 still provides key functionality for a large proportion of internet functionality today. Amazingly we have run out of IPv4 addresses despite there being a total of 4,294,967,296 addresses. This is why we are introducing IPv6. IPv4 addresses take the form of 192.168.1.254 – four groups of 1-3 digits and each groups value can be between 1 and 255. I’ll go into more detail about the use of these in a future article.

IPv6

Microsoft first introduced IPv6 into Windows in 2000 and other operating system developers followed suite around that time. As you can gather, the Internet Protocol version 6 has also been around for many years. IPv6 provides a vast number more possible addresses than IPv6 at a total of 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses… Now try saying that number!

IPv6 addresses are made of 8 blocks, each containing a combination of 4 numbers between 0-9 and the letters a-f (this is known as hexadecimal). One example of an IPv6 address is FE80:0000:0000:0000:0202:B3FF:FE1E:8329 and is seemingly a lot more complicated than an IPv4 address but it serves the exact same purpose. IPv6 addresses are newer technology than IPv4 and transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6 isn’t as simple as pressing a button. It has taken many years; and will take many more before we adopt IPv6 to the same extent as IPv4. Currently, the infrastructure supporting the server which served this webpage to you doesn’t support IPv6. This means that you are currently using IPv4 to view this page.

Summary

So, we’ve now learnt a bit about IP addresses and what they do so why not have a look at the difference between Static and Dynamic IP Addresses? The topic of IP addresses is a massive one and I will be covering further details in later articles. As always, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below or message me using one of the social links at the side of this page.

Owen Nelson

Owen Nelson

https://owennelson.co.uk

IT Systems Administrator from Northamptonshire, UK. Always on the lookout for ways to make things faster and more secure - and I enjoy getting through a fair bit of Tea along the way.

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