What Is An IP Address On The Internet?

An IP Address

Most computer users know that they have an IP address but have only a pale understanding of how these addresses are created and how they work. To simplify things for those who don’t speak computerese, IP addresses are often compared to physical mailboxes. While that’s true in a very general sense, IP addresses on the Internet are more refined than that.

The Basics

IP stands for Internet Protocol. These are rules that are part of the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol that facilitate action and activities on the Internet. IP addresses uniquely identify the source of a command or communication as well as the destination location. This information is vital for two way communication. And it means that YOUR COMPUTER, out of several that may be in the same building or even the same room, can be uniquely identified. This is important because, for example, if you are searching for information on the internet, the information will be returned to YOUR computer not to other computers or devices that may be near by.

Address Format

Every IP address on the World Wide Web is set up using the exact same format. Addresses consist of numbers and dots. There are four sets of numbers separated by a single dot. Each of those numbers will be one to three digits long.

IP Addresses are assigned to your computer by your Internet provider, a WAN (Wide Area Network) or within larger businesses using a LAN, or Local Area Network, by the network administrator. In general, this address is assigned to your computer for the length of time that you are logged in and using the Internet. Once the session ends, that address may be assigned to another user within the network.

IP Address Standards

There are currently two different types of IP Addresses. The older type, the IPv4, is supported all over the web. These short addresses contain four bytes of data. The newer IPv6 contains 16 bytes of data and is currently being adopted primarily to create room for more computers on the increasingly crowed web.

How Are Addresses Assigned?

The IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) is responsible for the pool of available IP addresses. This authority distributes large blocks of numbers to many different RIRs (Regional Internet Registries). Currently, there are five RIRs in the world and each is governed by rules set up by the regions that they cover. That’s why the rules for distributing IP addresses may be different in Europe and in the Asia Pacific regions.

While most people think in terms of geography, the rules for handing out IP addresses don’t take the physical nature of the world into consideration. Instead, it is the topology of the Internet that matters. In regions where more Internet use is detected along with a higher need for addresses, more IP addresses are made available. Each region works out plans to ensure that distribution remains equitable.

What Is Your IP Address?

It’s not very hard to find out what your IP Address is. Simple head to Google and type the question in. Your address will be the first result. There are also websites available, in case you want a second opinion.

Without IP addresses, the Internet wouldn’t work very well. While most are dynamic as talked about above, some addresses are static. However, no matter which type you have, your address will always consist of numbers and dots that uniquely identify your computer.