Internet Protocol (IP) Address FAQs

What does IP stand for?

Internet Protocol (IP) is a networking protocol. It is a governing set of rules that allows information to be transmitted across the internet. An IP address ensures that data, which travels in packets, can be transmitted to any device or hardware on the internet. It standardizes the way information is routed from one user or device to another.

What is an IP address?

An IP address is a unique string of numbers, separated by periods or colons. These numbers correspond to a specific piece of hardware, be it a router, a phone, computer, etc. In many ways, an IP address fulfills the same need that your home address does. It helps information find a way to / from your specific location.

What does an IP address tell you?

A common question or concern is “what type of information can people gain if they know my IP address?” Generally speaking, an IP address can provide insight into a user’s location (continent, state, city, zip code) as well as the service provider. However, an IP address does not provide insight into a user’s name or address.

While an IP can provide location information, it should also be noted that the provided location can be several miles off. Or, if the traffic is routed through a VPN, even states or continents away.

Where can I find my IP address?

There are a variety of ways to find your IP address. Many methods depend on the device in use. Many websites, including this Fastmetrics page, offers users the opportunity to view their IP address for free.

In addition to websites that offer to look up IP info, you can typically check your computer’s network settings by following the steps and procedures unique to your Operating System (typically beginning in your Network Settings or similar). You can also use the command prompt (for example, ifconfig for the LINUX OS or ipconfig for Windows Operating Systems), to determine your unique IP address.

Are there different types of IP addresses?

There are two types of IP addresses; static and dynamic. A static IP address, as the name suggests, remains the same. Conversely, a dynamic IP address may change each time a device connects to the internet. Because dynamic IP addresses offer flexibility within a network, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) typically assign dynamic IPs to residential users. However, many businesses, which often require the use of servers, FTPs, VPNs for remote access, are typically assigned static IPs. Static IPs can accommodate the need for a consistent locational reference.

What are the different IP classes?

IPv4 addresses are broken down into five classes: Class A, Class B, Class, C, Class D and Class E. These classes are defined by the IP address range as well as their purpose. The most widely used classes are;

  • Class A (1.0.0.1 -126.255.255.254)
  • Class B (128.1.0.1 – 191.255.255.254)
  • Class C 192.0.1.1 – 223.255.254.254)
  • Class D is reserved for multicasting applications (one-to-many) as opposed to typical networking operations.
  • Class E is considered experimental and used for study or research and development purposes.

What’s the difference between IPv4 and IPv6 IPs?

IPv4 and IPv6 are both internet protocol versions (version 4 and version 6 respectively). IPv4 addresses consist of 32-bit value. As the amount of people, businesses, organizations and devices that rely on access to the internet increase, so to do the demands for IP addresses. The 32-bit value used for IPv4 addresses cannot accommodate the growing need for internet access, and therefore IPv6 was released. Today, IPv4 and IPv6 are both in use. Many experts expect that a full transition to IPv6 will occur in the future.

IPv4 vs IPv6 Internet Protocol Explained?

To help explain the difference and transition to IPv6 from IPv4 Internet protocol, check out the below video from Linus at Tech Quickie. (Full transcript below the video to revisit any parts of the video you need to).

Video transcript: The internet protocol is the main set of rules that governs the exchange or transmission of data between devices on separate networks.

It has got two main jobs and for both of them, an easy comparison can be made to the mail system.

So number one is addressing hosts. Imagine if everyone on earth just came up with their own idea of how they should go about sending an item to someone. Ideas like putting the return address inside the box for better personal security or sending out six of the same thing to everyone on a city block to ensure that at least one of them will reach the intended target may be well-intentioned but would create a ton of unnecessary overhead, leading to inefficiency.

The internet protocol dictates the header format of a datagram or packet similar to the label on a package as well as the way the data payload is nested within it to improve efficiency.

Number two is routing or predicting and selecting the best possible path for data transmission across network boundaries. This function is mostly performed by routers and it’s the equivalent of your parcel – let’s say it’s heading from the West Coast to the US to France, reaching a courier hub in Chicago, where the decision gets made to forward it to New York, then Paris, instead of letting it make stopovers in Brisbane, New Delhi, Moscow and Toronto along the way.

It seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, actually we’ve got a small problem at the moment. IPV4, the first non-experimental version of the internet protocol and the cornerstone of the internet as we know it, has only received relatively minor revisions since its original development in the late ‘70s when the digital lifestyle we enjoy today with all of these connected devices all around us was basically science fiction.

So it has some limitations that IPV6 was designed to deal with. First up, IPV4 allows for only about four billion unique addresses, which might sound like a lot. But once you do the math, it’s not enough for every device on earth to have its own address and without a unique address, there’s no way to ensure that a packet is being delivered to the correct destination.

IPV6 replaces IPV4’s 32-bit address with a 128-bit address that allows about 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses, enough for every person on earth to have billions of addresses for every device they own.

Well, hold on a second Linus. Four billion is already not enough. How did we make it this far? Great question. Aside from reusing IP addresses, one of the main ways we’ve alleviated the need to have more of them is through network address translation. This is kind of like apartment numbers.

Two completely separate buildings can each have an apartment number 804 in much the same way that your PC at home can have the same 192.168 point something point whatever private ID address as your PC at work. But their data never gets mis-delivered.

In the same way that those apartments have different public street addresses, all of those overlapping private IPs are behind unique public IPs, from which all the traffic appears to originate. Well, that sounds great, Linus. Why can’t we just keep doing NAT?

Once again, great question. NAT is not a bad thing and you can keep using it with IPV6 if you want. It brings some real benefits to the table in terms of control and convenience, if you were to switch IPs for example, but security is a mixed bag with its inherent firewall-like features considered good. But the fact that it messes with packet tampering and prevention protocols like IPsec considered bad and on top of that, NAT adds performance overhead and increases the complexity of peer-to-peer connections, which are great for file-sharing communication and much, much more, which leads into my next point. Simplicity.

Having each device be able to address every other device on the network will improve performance directly and on top of that, with IPV6, devices can auto-configure themselves rather than relying on DHCP to get an address and the header data that must be included with every packet while actually larger to accommodate the longer addresses, has a ton of extraneous stuff that has been cut out to reduce overhead while allowing more customizability for the future.

Sounds great, Linus. But just like we predicted that we need 64-bit processors to address more memory, we knew this was coming. So why didn’t we switch two, five or even ten years ago?

The answer is compatibility. Trying to access a website that only runs IPV6 from an IPV4 system just wouldn’t work. There’s no backwards compatibility built in. But that said, older hardware can sometimes be upgraded with new firmware for compatibility, modern PC operating systems and even most phones out there have an IPV6 capable for some time now.

So the issue actually isn’t on our side as consumers. No. It’s the internet service providers holding us back once again. Moving to purely IPV6 equipment or dual-stat gear that can operate with both protocols is expensive, doesn’t offer an easily-communicated benefit to Joe average customer and most troubling of all, removes the need for carrier-grade NAT solutions that add overhead but also give your ISP a great deal of visibility and control over the traffic in and out.

So why would they bother given how fond the average ISP is of important stuff like maintaining net neutrality? Which I would encourage you to read up on because whether it seems important or not, the net neutrality debate will have a profound impact on the way internet communication works in the future regardless of when we transition to IPV6.