What is my ip? It’s a strange question in most people’s minds, but it’s one of the top ten most searched questions on google.
Those who know what an IP address is already know that most of these searches come from people who understand what they are looking for. But for the rest of us, a more pertinent question might be: what is an IP address?
Around the world, billions of computing devices connect to the Internet. To communicate, every device needs an address, just like our homes.
Our home address is usually structured as follows: “number, street, city, postal code, country”. And our entire postal distribution network is based on this system.
Our digital world is similar and has an addressing system that allows network traffic to travel across the Internet. So an Internet Protocol (IP) address – which also has its own implicit structure – is basically a numeric address for an endpoint on the Internet.
An online content delivery system
Similar to postal addresses, IP addresses are assigned to each recipient in a global infrastructure. The recipient can be a single device such as a laptop, phone, tablet, or even your air conditioner controller, but it can also be a network entry point to a large organization.
Since its inception, IP has been designed with simplicity and efficiency in mind. That’s why it’s remained effective at managing internet traffic, from a four-node network in the late 1960s to billions of devices today.
An IP address is a number in binary format, that is, made up of 32 digits (or bits) made up of 1s and 0s. The address is usually grouped into four 8-bit numbers, so that each number consists of eight digits which are either a 1 or a 0.
But we usually view IP addresses in a decimal format, where the value between 00000000 and 11111111 becomes a number between 0 and 255. So the full IP address space is from 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255.
IP addresses are centrally managed by the Internet number assignment authoritywhich delegates to one of the five regional registers: Africa, America, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Western Europe/Central Asia.
Not all addresses can be used by anyone. Many are reserve for specific purposes. For example, three address ranges (10.0.0.0—10.255.255.255, 192.168.0.0—192.168.255.255, and 172.16.0.0—172.31.255.255) are reserved for private networks such as your home.
Other large address blocks are assigned to specific organizations. The US Department of Defense “owns” the prefix “6” (6.xyz), along with 11 others.
IPv6: a new frontier
IPv4 (version 4) is currently the most widely used version of IP in the world. Meet back to the 1980sit has a capacity of over four billion unique addresses — which was considered sufficient at the time.
But a combination of unnecessary usage (for example, organizations being allocated IP address spaces larger than they need) and the exponential increase in the number of users causes that space to be exhausted.
For now, IPv4 is still there. But his disappearance has long been predicted and it will eventually no longer be fit for purpose. However, there are technical solutions.
The most useful are Network Address Translation (we’ll get to that later) and a newer version of IP: version 6. Although IPv6 is newer than IPv4, it’s not really “new”. . It was initially proposed some 25 years ago.
The switch to IPv6 brings a series of advantages, even if they are fundamentally transparent for consumers. The most significant change with IPv6 is the increase in the size of IP addresses from 32 bits to 128 bits.
Version 6 also increases the total number of unique IP addresses offered, up to 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. should last us long.
Efficient use of addresses
As mentioned above, private addresses can be used for individual devices within an organization (or home). But private addresses cannot be used on the internet, so these devices “hide” behind a public/external IP address.
This public address is capable of supporting up to hundreds of thousands of devices for a large organization. But a router is needed to connect the network to the internet. The router translates the many internal private addresses that hide behind the public IP address (or several of them).
When data is transmitted to a private organization or home network, the router forwards the traffic to a specific internal computer using that computer’s private IP address.
The process of routing many devices through a single IP address is called “nested” networks. And the technique it uses is called Network Address Translation (NAT).
IP and download speeds
You probably won’t use IP addresses in your daily life. But to access a website, our computers have to “look up” that site’s IP address. All of this happens in the background.
Once our computer has retrieved the website’s IP address, our browser connects to the address, requests the website’s data from the server, and loads the page.
In the image above, you will notice four different addresses. This allows the servers providing the content to distribute the workload among four servers. Some websites go further and use Content Delivery Networks (CDN).
CDNs host copies of web content on servers around the world. This means that requested content can be delivered from a location that is geographically closer to the user trying to access it. This reduces the page load time.
The future of intellectual property
IPv6 may be slowly rolling out in ISP networks and large organizations, but individuals and small businesses will continue to use IPv4 for the foreseeable future.
The increase in the number of devices connected to the Internet will certainly test our home routers – with forecasts of 25 billion devices expected globally over the next decade. Fortunately, even with this predicted explosion, IPv4 at home will be able to cope.
In the meantime, if you want to know your public IP address, just search for “what is my ip address” and Google (along with several other search engines) will provide your public IP address. If you want to verify your private IP address, it will take a a little more effort.