IP stands for Internet Protocol, and an IP address allows one computer or digital device to communicate with another of its kind via the Internet.

The Meaning of Internet Protocol

An Internet Protocol address is a set of rules that facilitate the completion of an array of actions and govern activity on the Internet. It is also part of an interconnected grid that’s systematically laid out. IP addresses can identify both Internet destinations and initiating devices, so that two-way communication becomes possible.

Standard IP Address Format

If you ever had to edit the settings of your router information via your web browser, your handbook may have instructed you to type something along the lines of “192.168.0.101” into the address bar.

These numbers are the IP address of the router on your network, and they allow you to connect your PC to the router’s configuration interface. Essentially, it’s like a street address in the real world – if you’re trying to go somewhere, you need to know the address so you can properly navigate to the location.

Now, the IP address could look very different from the one shown above, but still has the same meaning. Examples of other IP addresses would be combinations like 88.120.43.189, 24.220.190.23, and a plethora of other combinations. However, there are restrictions as each number is limited to 255 (the max value), meaning you can’t have an IP address like 343.274.948.712.

This format is referred to as IPv4, which is one of two formats that are commonly used. IPv4 is far more common compared to its counterpart, IPv6.

Understanding Global IP Addresses

If you do the math, there are roughly four billion public IP addresses available, which is nowhere near the amount of devices that are connected to the internet. The reason we’re able to still connect with addresses overlapping, is because the IP address of each device on a particular network is unique to that network.

In addition, these devices utilize the same global IP address when accessing websites outside of the network. One global IP address is often shared by four computers, three tablets, and four cellphones within the same network.

What is IPv6?

IPv6 addresses are alternative addresses that can go up to 32 digits in length, and comprise letters and numbers. There are roughly 340 undecillion combinations of IPv6 addresses, so we won’t be running out of combinations anytime soon.