An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is the unique numeric identifier attached to all devices on an IP-based network. Every client, server, and network device is assigned a unique IP address to ensure that it can send and receive data on the network without interfering or colliding with another networked device.
IP addresses are written in dotted decimal notation and, under the current IPv4 set, appear as X.X.X.X–the IP address, for example, of Google’s search portal page is 126.96.36.199. Each segment of that IP indicates either the greater network the search portal server exists on, the subnet it belongs to, and the specific host (or machine) it is. IP addresses then, function much like mailing addresses where in each segment of your mailing address gets the postman closer to your home until he successfully delivers the mail–the network is analogous to your city/state, the subnet to your neighborhood, and the host to your street address.
The Internet Protocol v4 addressing scheme was deployed in the 1980s. Explosive growth in global internet usage has strained the IPv4 naming system and during the mid-1990s IPv6 (capable of assigning trillions more addresses than IPv4) was proposed and adopted. Since the early 2000s an increasing number of organizations are using IPv6 addressing.
- By Jason Fitzpatrick on 02/26/13