Updated: February 12, 2022 9:33:25 am
IP Addresses are all over the internet. Every device you use at home, in the office, even the smartphone in your pocket has one. Yet, we may not know what exactly an IP address is. In today’s edition of ExpressBasics, we will be understanding what IP addresses are, how they work and how you can find out yours.
What is an IP address?
As Kaspersky defines it, “IP addresses are the identifier that allows information to be sent between devices on a network: they contain location information and make devices accessible for communication. The internet needs a way to differentiate between different computers, routers, and websites. IP addresses provide a way of doing so and form an essential part of how the internet works.”
Simply put, an IP address is like an internet address that can be used to uniquely identify a particular device that is connected to a network, in this case, the entire web. The ‘IP’ stands for internet protocol, a set of rules that govern the format of data that is sent via the internet.
IP addresses are denoted in the format of four decimal numbers, separated by dots. A typical IP address looks like this – 22.214.171.124.
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Here, the first half of the address (192.164.50) represents what is known as the network part while the second half (56) is what is known as the host part. While the former specifies the unique number assigned to your network, the latter is the part of the IP address that you assign to each host or device on your network.
Imagine these combinations of dots and numbers to be a unique postal code or a latitude-longitude combination that can be used to pinpoint your city or your exact location on Google Maps respectively. If a website has your IP address (which it will unless you’re using a VPN), it also knows where you are accessing the webpage from. This is how websites get to know your location, which is often used to then redirect you to more region-specific pages, or switch languages accordingly.
Public vs Private IP addresses
A public IP address is one that can be accessed directly over the internet. This address is assigned to your network router by your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and is different from your private IP addresses. The devices you use on your Wi-Fi network at home all have a private IP address. These are visible to only the router and remain hidden when you connect to the internet.
How to find out your IP address
Knowing your own IP address is fundamental if you want to do things like hosting a LAN network in your home or office. There are many ways to find your IP address, the easiest of which is simply searching for “What’s my IP?” on Google. This will quickly show you your public IP address.
To find out your private IP address, you will have to follow a few more steps.
On Windows, you can go to your network properties in Settings/Network & Internet/Wi-Fi/ (name of your Wi-Fi). You will find your IP towards the bottom of the page.
On macOS, you can click on the Apple logo, go to System Preferences/ Network. Here, select the network you are already connected to and under ‘Status’, you will see the private IP address.
On Android, you can find out your IP address by heading to Settings/ About Phone/ Status/ IP address. On iOS, you can navigate to Settings/ WiFi and select the information icon on the right of the connected network and find your IP address here.
IPv4 and IPv6 addresses
The IP addresses we deal with usually are IPv4 addresses. This is an older protocol that uses 32 binary bits and provides a total of 4.29 billion possible unique addresses. Worries of the number of IP addresses ‘running out’ led to the development of IPv6. IPv6 addresses are denoted by eight number-groups and typically look like this – 2601:7c1:100:ef69:b5ed:ed57:dbc0:2c1e.
IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses instead, theoretically allowing 2^128 combinations or 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses. Yes, that’s enough to not run out for a long, long time.
However, as mentioned by HowToGeek, the imminent shortage of IPv4 addresses “ended up being mitigated to a large extent” because people started using private IP addresses behind their routers. This is why a full transition to IPv6 hasn’t happened yet.
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