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How does an IP address work?

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An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a numerical identification and logical address that is assigned to devices participating in a computer network utilizing the Internet Protocol for communication between its nodes. Although IP addresses are stored as binary numbers, they are usually displayed in human-readable notations, such as 208.77.188.166 (for IPv4), and 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:1:1 (for IPv6). The role of the IP address has been characterized as follows: "A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A route indicates how to get there."

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) manages the IP address space allocations globally. IANA works in cooperation with five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) to allocate IP address blocks to Local Internet Registries (Internet service providers) and other entities.

Think of an IP address a similar to a mailing address, but using only numbers in a specific sequence instead of a number/street/city/ZIP. When a computer connects to a network, it either has a pre-assigned IP address (fixed IP) or asks for one to be assigned to it (dynamic IP). Specific subsets of numbers are assigned to different companies and regions by the IANA and its associated registries. The IP address is usually tied to a hardware specific serial number like the MAC address of the computer's network adapter or interface card.


Includes CC-BY-SA content from Wikipedia's IP address article (authors)

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