Did you know your device (every device connected to the internet for that matter!) has a name? Have you ever seen a number like this — 22.214.171.124 — and wondered what it is? Well, this is an IP address. Don’t worry if you have never heard of IP addresses before. Most people probably haven’t heard of them either. They are basically the location where you want your websites and other content to load up. IP addresses mainly have two main functions — uniquely identifying each device on the internet and handling connections between device and destination.
Want to check what the IP address of your laptop is? Follow the following steps:
Step 1: Open command prompt by typing ‘cmd’ (without quotes) in the Windows search bar.
Step 2: Type ‘ipconfig’ (without quotes) and hit enter.
Step 3: You will see “Windows IP Configuration” under which you will be able to see your IPv4 and your IPv6 address.
IP address stands for Internet Protocol address. Similar to a name given to you (hopefully you have one!), IP addresses are names (you can call them identifiers) given to your device. This identifier is unique for every device which follows the Internet Protocol.
How are IP Addresses assigned?
There are two ways of assigning IP addresses — static allocation and dynamic allocation. Don’t worry, you probably won’t have to worry about how you are going to be assigning IP addresses to your device. That happens automatically (most of the time)!
Static Allocation — This is also known as persistent configuration. Static IP addresses are manually created and they never change, hence the name ‘static’. A device with a static IP address uses the same address every time it connects to the internet.
Dynamic Allocation — Complex word, simple meaning — These are assigned automatically by DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) when your device connects to the network. These addresses are most commonly used since they are cost-effective for internet service providers (ISPs).
Who manages IP addresses?
IP address space is managed by IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) on the global level. The IANA allocates IP addresses to RIRs (Regional Internet Registries). There are 5 RIRs which serve specific regions of the world. AFRINIC (African Network Information Centre) serves Africa, ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) serves Antarctica and North America, APNIC (Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre) serves Asia, LACNIC (Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre) serves most of the Caribbean and Latin America, RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre) serves Europe, Russia, Central and West Asia. These RIRs allocate addresses to ISPs and other end-users.
What are the versions of IP addresses?
Initially, there was only IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4). It uses 32 binary bits to create a unique address on the network. Each address has 4 octets separated by dots, and each octet is a decimal representation of an eight-digit binary number.
Ex. 126.96.36.199 — Each number can go from 0 to 255. So, there can only be about 2³² which is equal to about 4.3 billion unique addresses (which seems like a huge number, but the number of unique devices is way more than that). The people then had not expected the internet to grow so much. So, they came up with a new version — IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) — which used 128 binary bits for each unique address. This provides 2¹²⁸ unique addresses (hopefully that’s enough to last a long time at least for now!). An IPv6 address is represented by eight groups of hexadecimal numbers separated by colons.
The following addresses are not given to any device -
- 0.0.0.0 — This represents the default network
- 255.255.255.255 — This address represents the network broadcast address. Basically, when a message is sent from this address, it reaches all the devices on a network.
- 127.0.0.1 — This is a loopback address, used for identifying the device’s own address, or whether an IP address has been assigned to it or not.