IP-address is short for “Internet protocol address“. This “address” is your unique number to access the internet. Every device connected to the internet has an IP-address. This makes enables you to deliver a message to the right person. Just like sending a letter to your home address.
However, your computer connects to the internet indirectly. Your device is first connected to a network. Subsequently, this network connects you to the the internet. This network can be your Internet service provider (ISP) like AT&T or Vodafone. On the other hand, connection is made to a wireless network at work, home, or in a coffee shop. This ISP gives your computer an IP-address so you can connect to the internet. However, this IP-address does not stay the same forever. Every time you connect to a new network your computer gets a new IP-address.
Technical concepts of an IP-address
IPv4 and IPv6 IP-address
So what is the difference? In the beginning if the internet era only IPv4 address existed. (IP version 0 to 3 had testing purposes only). This IPv4 IP-address is able to define 4,294,967,296 (232) unique addresses. The address contains of 4 numbers separated by 4 dots.
As the internet kept on growing this was not enough. Therefore, IPv6 was introduced in 1998. IPv6 has the possibility to create approximately 3.4×1038 addresses (2128). Specifically, an IPv6-address is expressed by eight groups of hexadecimal numbers separated by colons.
Today both IPv4 and IPv6 address are used. Eventually, IPv6 is going to replace IPv4. Click the button below to check your IP-address.
Dynamic and static IP-addresses
All types of IP-addresses can either be dynamic or static. Static IP-addresses do not change over time and need to be configured yourself. In the network setting of your computer a static IP-address is configured. Static IP-address are unusual as most IP-addresses are generated dynamically.
As described above most IP-addresses expire after a limited time. Therefore new dynamic IP-addresses are useful. Using the DHCP protocol dynamic IP-addresses are assigned. DHCP = Dynamic host configuration protocol. For example, this DHCP is running on your router to assign a dynamic IP-address automatically.
IP-addresses: internal and external
Internal and external IP-address have the same purpose. However, external IP-addresses connect devices across the entire internet. An internal or local IP-address only connect devices in a private network.
When you are connected to a router this router automatically assign you a local IP-address. This local IP-address is hidden from the outside world. Generally you only need this IP-address if you are setting up a server or printer inside your network.
Local IP-addresses start from 192.168.1.2. Only the last digit increments when connecting a new device to the network.
Conclusion about IP-addresses
An IP-address is your key to the internet. Just like you home address an IP-address locates other devices connected to the internet. For example, we use the IP-address in our IP location API to detect the location of a device automatically.