Hey, what’s an IP Address?

IP addresses explained

An IP address (Internet Protocol address) is like your home address but for computer networks and the internet.

Imagine you are trying to send a letter to a friend through the post office. You need to know their address to send them the letter. Computers need to know where to send the information.

IP addresses are how the computer knows where to send and receive information over the internet. Without IP addresses there wouldn’t be a way to connect with another computer.

Let’s answer some questions you may have.

What does an IP address look like?

There are 2 different types of IP addresses. One is all numbers. It looks like this 255.255.0.0. The other type looks like this FE80:0000:0000:0000:0202:B3FF:FE1E:8329.

How does the computer know the IP address?

Every time you go to a website your computer sends the .com name you put in the address bar to a DNS resolver. The DNS resolver converts the .com name to an IP address. Then your computer starts loading the website. This happens so fast you don’t realize it’s happening.

Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has a server to do the DNS resolution for you.

Example of how IP addresses work.

When you type substack.com into your internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge) and hit enter, substack.com is translated from a DNS (domain name server) name to an IP address.

You can also put the IP address in place of the DNS name and get to a website.

Don’t believe me?

This will take you to a search engine (Google is an example of a search engine) called Duck Duck Go.

Why are there different types of IP addresses?

When the planning for the internet occurred in the 1980s, there wasn’t thought on how many devices would be connected. They ended up running out of the number-only version of IP addresses. So the Internet Engineering Task Force came up with the 2nd type.

What are the different types?

IPv4 has been used since 1984. IPv4 is used in home networks. Still used for the internet but most companies have transitioned to IPv4. It provides 4,294,967,296 possible addresses.

IPv6 was created in 1998 for the impending address shortage. IPv6 was scheduled for mass deployment in 2012. Adoption of IPv6 has been slow. In 2017, IPv6 was accepted as the standard for the internet. It provides 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible addresses.

What do I need to remember?

  1. Computers have addresses just like your house. Without IP addresses the internet wouldn’t exist.

  2. When you type in a web address it is sent to a different computer to be converted to an IP address so your computer can understand.

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