The word IP stands for Internet Protocol, the set of rules that defines how data can be transferred between computers and all devices on a network. The IP address of the sender and recipient is included in every data packet sent via the internet.
IPv4 and IPv6 Addresses
There are two flavours of IP Addresses that can be used on a network. The first, and the version that the Internet and most routers are currently configured for, is IPv4 or Internet Protocol version 4 and looks something like 188.8.131.52.
Given the rapid growth of the number of devices on the internet, computer scientists realised that these 4.3 billion IP addresses would not be sufficient.
To solve the looming shortage, they developed IPv6 with a 128 bit system. This is made up of eight groups of four hexadecimal symbols separated by colons.
A hexadecimal is a 16 base positional numbering system that combines numbers and letters. The new IPv6 addresses look like 2001:0db8:85a3:0042:1000:8a2e:0370:7334. More importantly, it enables a phenomenal 2128 unique IP addresses (more than 7.9×1028 times as many as IPv4) – ensuring that there will be enough IP addresses for a long time to come for both consumers and online technologies.
How Does Your Computer Get Its IP Address?
IP addresses can be either dynamic or static.
Static IP addresses are fixed to the specific device. Static IP addresses are manually assigned by an administrator. Before when the Internet was not as popular (in the 1990’s), every computer was assigned a static IP address. Today, dynamic IP addresses are more commonly used for individual users.
Dynamic IP addresses are assigned by a server using Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). Dynamic IP addresses are temporary and can change each time the device connects to the internet.
Changing IP addresses with the DHCP protocol allows an ISP (Internet Service Provider) to distribute a limited pool of IP addresses each time a device connects to the Internet.
This frees the ISP from recording the specific IP address for each device and also enables it to service more customers with fewer IP addresses.