What is an IP Address

Every device on the internet needs a unique identifier to navigate and communicate. This unique tag is called an IP address, short for Internet Protocol address.

Think of it as your device’s digital mailing address, allowing it to send and receive information across the web. It tells the internet where to deliver the data you request, whether it’s a website you want to visit or an email you’re sending.

Why Are IP Addresses Important

  • IP Addresses are the foundation for communication on the internet. Without them, devices wouldn’t know where to send or receive data. This would make it impossible to browse websites, stream videos, or connect with others online.

  • Imagine millions of messages zipping around the internet at once. IP addresses act like traffic signals, directing data packets to the correct device. They ensure information reaches its intended destination efficiently.

  • Networks, like your home Wi-Fi or a company’s internal network, use IP addresses to identify and manage devices. This allows administrators to control access, prioritize traffic, and maintain network security.

Two Main Types of IP Addresses

Public IP Address: This is like your street address on the internet. It identifies your entire network to the outside world and is assigned by your internet service provider (ISP).

Private IP Address: This is used within a private network, like your home Wi-Fi. It identifies individual devices on your network and isn’t directly visible on the public internet.

FeaturePublic IP AddressPrivate IP Address
ScopeVisible on the entire internetUsed only within a private network (home, office)
Assigning EntityInternet Service Provider (ISP)Network router
UniquenessGlobally unique (identifies your entire network)Non-unique (multiple devices can have the same private IP within a network)
FunctionRoutes internet traffic to your networkIdentifies devices on a local network
Example192.168.1.1 (typical router address) (common private IP)


IPV4 vs IPV6

The internet has grown tremendously, and the original IP address format, IPv4, is running out of addresses. To address this limitation, a new format, IPv6, has been developed.

Here’s a comparison:

FeatureIPv4 AddressIPv6 Address
Address Length32 bits (written in four decimal numbers separated by dots)128 bits (written in eight hexadecimal groups separated by colons)
Address SpaceLimited (running out of addresses)Vastly larger, offering enough addresses for foreseeable future
FormatNumeric (e.g., (e.g., 2001:0db8:0000:85a3:0000:0000:1a2b:0001)
SecurityNo built-in security featuresCan support built-in security for more secure communication
AdoptionCurrently dominant protocolGradually being adopted to address IPv4 limitations

IANA and The Five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs)

Imagine a massive library of internet addresses. Keeping track of everything requires a well-organized system. This is where the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the Five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) come into play.

IANA acts like the head librarian, maintaining a master list of IP addresses and dividing them into large blocks. The RIRs function as regional librarians, each responsible for managing and distributing IP addresses within their assigned territory. They work together with IANA to ensure a unified and globally coordinated approach to IP address management.

  1. American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN): Covers North America and parts of the Caribbean.

  2. African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC): Responsible for Africa.

  3. Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC): Oversees internet number resources in the Asia-Pacific region.

  4. Latin American and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC): Manages internet number resources in Latin America and the Caribbean (except for the parts covered by ARIN).

  5. Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC): Oversees internet number resources in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

How it Works

  1. Businesses, ISPs, and even universities require IP addresses for their devices to connect to the internet.

  2. These organizations submit requests to the RIRs for IP address blocks. The registry allocates appropriate blocks based on their needs.

  3. Along with IP addresses, the RIR assigns a unique ASN to each block.  Think of ASNs as library branch codes. They identify groups of IP addresses managed by a single network operator, like an internet service provider (ISP) or a large company. This ASN helps internet traffic routing and allows network operators to manage their IP addresses efficiently.

  4. ISPs often further divide their allocated IP address blocks into smaller subnets for individual customers. They maintain control over these subnets using the assigned ASN.

  5. The registry keeps a detailed registry of all assigned IP addresses and their corresponding ASNs. This ensures clear ownership and helps resolve any disputes.


IP addresses are the foundation of our connected world.  While IPv4 currently dominates, the transition to IPv6 is underway, paving the way for a more secure and expansive internet of the future.

Additionally, It’s important to be aware that public IP addresses can reveal your location. Understanding IP addresses empowers you to make informed choices about online privacy and security.

With this knowledge, you can navigate the internet with a more awareness of the invisible forces at work.

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