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What the heck is an IP address?

An Internet Protocol address, known as an IP, is similar to a phone number and is assigned to computers or devices on a network that uses the widespread Internet Protocol. Your IP address serves as the 'destination' for the various requests you make on a network. All pc's and devices on the internet have one, including websites. We generally browse the internet using domain names, but this predominantly acts as a convenience, since domain addresses are converted for you to the respective IP addresses automagically by computers known as name servers. One you may be familiar with is linux’s Bind server.

The current incarnation of the Internet Protocol or TCP/IP, is Internet Protocol version 4, also known as IPv4. This system uses a 32-bit number consisting of 4 sections separated by a decimal point. An IP number is usually displayed to us in decimal form but is actually used in their binary form by computers. In response to the rapid growth of the internet, a new version of TCP/IP was required to accommodate a larger number of addresses. IPv6 was born from this need and uses 128bit numbers to accommodate a much greater number of addresses.

Example IPv4 Address Example IPv6 Address
192.168.10.136 3ffe:1900:4545:3:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf

The Internet Protocol handles more than just addressing; it also assists in the routing of data packets to and from your pc. Part of the IP address bits represent a sub-network to which the destination is affiliated with. When we use these sub-network bits in conjunction with the human readable form of an IP address it appear like this: '192.168.10.136/24'. This is referred to as CIDR notation.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the governing body for IP address allocations globally. IANA acts in co-operation with Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) to allocate blocks of addresses to your local Internet Service Providers (ISP).