What is an IP Address – Meaning and Types
One of the most notable progress points for the internet was the introduction of Internet Protocols and IP addresses. It is likely that you must have heard these terms multiple times regarding networks and computers, without really taking the time to know about them and their working in detail. You’re not alone.
Most computer users may not be able to provide a detailed definition either. Because, though an IP address provides the passport to almost everything internet-related, there are not many instances where you need to know about it in detail.
Nonetheless, in this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about IP addresses. Let’s begin with understanding internet protocol.
What is internet protocol?
A computer is hardwired to obey numerous built-in commands, standards, and rules known as protocols to identify and communicate with other computer systems or connect to the internet. And one such protocol is called Internet Protocol. It is a method by which data is sent from one computer to the other via the internet. IP is accountable for addressing, delivering, and routing online requests.
With every online request, the IP sends an electronic source address (known as your IP address), so that the requested information can be displayed on the screen.
What is an IP address?
An IP address is an identifying number associated with a specific computer network or computer. When connected to the internet, the IP address enables computers to send and receive data. Most IP addresses used to have just numbers, but as internet usage is growing, letters have been added to some of the addresses.
Broadly, there are four types of IP addresses: private, public, dynamic, and static. While the private and public are indicative of the network’s location, dynamic and static indicate permanency.
Private and Public IP addresses
A public IP address is a unique identifier that is assigned to your internet connection by your ISP (Internet service provider). Your router uses this address to identify you on the internet. The address ensures that the emails, websites, and other content on the internet reach you properly and correctly.
Whereas a private IP address identifies different devices that are connected to the same local network. When your router receives the information from the global network, it needs to know the device to which it should share that.
Dynamic and static web addresses
A static IP address is one that was created manually, instead of being assigned and doesn’t change. Whereas a dynamic IP address is assigned by a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server and is subject to change. The dynamic IP address is the most common type of internet protocol address which is active only for a specific period of time, after which they expire. The computer may either request a new lease automatically, or it will receive a new IP address.
You can compare an IP address to an SSN (Social Security Number) since every address is completely unique to the user or the computer it is assigned to. Creating these numbers allows the routers to identify where they are sending the information over the internet while ensuring that the right devices are receiving it.
Just like the post office needs mailing addresses to deliver packages, routers need IP addresses to deliver the requested web address.
What are the types of IP address systems?
Computers communicate protocols or commands via binary code, which is a series of 1s and 0s. The code is then converted into a series of electrical impulses. These IP addresses act as a passport across the internet, granting access and serving as identification to foreign computers.
A common default IP address looks like: 192.168.1.1.
IPv4 32 bit binary address
Before the internet was in full swing, most networks were private across the world. And the IP addresses that computers used were known as IP Version 4 (IPv4) and looked like the one mentioned above. At the time, there were numerous combinations of unique binary consequences.
A standard IP Version 4 address consists of thirty-two 1s and 0s and there are 232 possible combinations.
At that period of time, this number seemed big enough. But, by the late 90s, as the usage of the internet increased across the globe, computer scientists understood this number is very small. Moreover, these days, most users have multiple devices, all of which require a unique IP address.
IPv6 128 bit binary address
One of the solutions to the problem of the unavailability of IP addresses was the introduction of a complex binary sequence in the form of 128 bit IP. This looked like 8 groups of hexadecimal numbers, separated by colons.
Hexadecimal numbers are comparatively a complicated numerical system that is used to represent larger numbers. While you don’t need to know everything about what they mean, you should know that they use letters as symbols for representing larger numbers. An IPv6 is represented by 128 0s and 1s, and there are 2128 possible combinations.
IPs and the DNS
While IP addresses were extremely useful tools that allowed computer systems to communicate with a network, it was difficult for humans to remember such large and complex numbers.
As more and more computers joined this fast-growing network, this became even more difficult. And trying to organize these IP addresses was not economical.
The solution that computer scientists came up with was the DNS (Domain Name System). Herein, synonyms (domain names) served as a short and easy names for IP addresses. In this system,
- Every domain name would be added to the DNS, and this would be regulated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
- Every domain name would be distinctive and associated with an IP address
- Every domain name would be issued for a fixed time period, which can be renewed
For example, a domain name would be bigrock.in, with bigrock functioning as the domain and .in acting as its paired TLD (top-level domain).
IP addresses are assigned to all the devices that connect to the internet and help in command resolution, addressing and sourcing data. Translation of IP addresses into domain names altered the internet’s nature and helped open the floodgates, making it convenient for internet users to navigate through the internet.