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Understanding Your Everyday IP Addresses

IP Addresses Ancient Temples

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IP Addresses are the glue that ties everything together over the Internet or private networks. These range from computers and laptops to mobile devices and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

So what is an IP Address in a nutshell? An Internet Protocol address which is the full IP Address name is a numerical tag assigned to each device in a computer network primarily used for communication purposes. IP Addresses function just like physical addresses.

It is the way computers are able to find and communicate with each other.

Types of IP Addresses

There are two main types of IP addresses. They are defined by their architecture or how much memory they require on a computer or network device to store the numeric (alphanumeric in the second type of IP Addresses) label identifying the device on the network. The two common types are IPv4 and IPv6.

Enter IPv4 vs IPv6

IPv4 or Internet Protocol Version 4 is represented as a 32 bit number. IPv6 which is version 6 is represented by a 128 bit number. The idea of these protocols is to implement human-readable notations. An example in IPv4 would be something like 192.169.128.234. This notation is represented by four 8 bit numbers separated by periods. This means each 8 bit number can range between and including 0 to 255.

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The IPv6 notation is made up of 8 groups of numbers of 16 bits each. This ranges from 0 to ffff. Being 16 bit, the representations are in Hexadecimal numbers rather than a Decimal number in the case of IPv4.

The IPv6 address notation can get very lengthy, making it harder to read. Therefore there are provisions to allow stripping of leading zeros within the groups. Consecutive sections of zeros can also be stripped.

With those rules this IPv6 loop back address 0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0001 can be simplified to ::1. This 2001:0db8:0000:0000:0000:ff00:0042:8329 can be stripped to 2001:db8:0:0:0:ff00:42:8329 by removing leading zeros per group and finally this 2001:db8::ff00:42:8329 after omitting consecutive zeros.

IPv4 similarly strips leading zeros. Instead of 127.000.000.001 you can write 127.0.0.1 but the difference here is you cannot strip all zeros within groups.

Why a More Complicated Notation of IPv6 got Introduced

The problem with IPv4 is capacity. IPv4 addresses can only support 4.3 billion devices connected to the Internet. Decades ago this was adequate. Today with mobile devices, IoT and all, a larger pool of addresses was needed and that’s where IPv6 came into being. IPv6 has approximately 3.4×1038 addresses.

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One thing to note about both of these address versions, not all the IP addresses are available for use. Some address ranges are reserved for private networks, others are reserved for local network interfaces residing on the same device used to access network services within itself.