IP Address Definition & Meaning

An IP (Internet Protocol) Address is an alphanumeric label assigned to computers and other devices that connect to a network using an internet protocol. This address allows these devices to send and receive data over the internet. Every device that is capable of connecting to the internet has a unique IP address.

Types of IP addresses

There are a few different types of IP addresses that each serve a unique purpose.

Public IP address

A public IP address is the main address used for communicating between hosts and the global internet. This address is unique for all users.

Private IP Address

A private IP address is the identifier given to devices connected to a private network. These addresses are only accessible by devices inside a private network. Private IP addresses are not all unique, as there are only a limited number of devices connected to a network at any given time.

Static and Dynamic IP Address

Both private and public IP addresses can be static or dynamic. A static IP address is manually configured and will never change. It is a permanent internet address. A dynamic IP address is a temporary address that is automatically assigned each time a computer or device accesses the internet.

The four numbers in an IP address are used in different ways to identify a particular network and a host on that network. Four regional Internet registries ARIN, RIPE NCC, LACNIC and APNIC assign internet addresses from the following three classes:

  • Class A – supports 16 million hosts on each of 126 networks
  • Class B – supports 65,000 hosts on each of 16,000 networks
  • Class C – supports 254 hosts on each of 2 million networks

IPv4 vs. IPv6

There are two versions of IP addresses commonly in use today. IPv4 used to be the standard version of IP addresses used for all devices. This version uses a 32-bit number format, meaning it’s a string of characters made up of 32 numbers. It can support a maximum of approximately 4.3 billion unique IP addresses. Due to the massive growth in devices connecting to the internet, the number of unique IPv4 addresses was eventually depleted.

IPv6 was developed as the new standard to alleviate this issue. In IPv6, the IP address size is increased from 32-bits to 128-bit. Additionally, letters can be included along with numbers. This new version of IP address can theoretically support an infinite number of unique addresses.

How to find your IP address

The easiest way to find your IP address is to use Google search. Type “what is my IP address” as a search query and Google will show the IP address of the computer from which the query was received as the top search result.

 

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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