What is an IP address?
Nowadays, we are all on the Internet, connected constantly through mobile devices, laptops, and PCs. And every time we are doing anything online (e.g., sending emails, posting pictures on social networks, shopping, reading news, etc.), an IP address is working for us.
How to get IP?
An Internet Protocol address, or an IP address, is like a business or home address of your device. Each device, connected to a network with the Internet protocol, has its unique IP address. However, this address doesn’t depend on the brand or type of your device (like a serial number) because it is assigned by your Internet service provider (ISP) and can be changed while using a different network.
For instance, if you are using your laptop at home, your ISP assigns you a unique IP address which won’t be changed until you are using your laptop while connecting to Wi-Fi at work, at a café, or in another location. Thus, IP address is used to identify not your device exactly but its current location.
What types of IP are used?
There are two primary types of IP addresses — Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). IPv4 has four sets of numbers from 0 to 255, which are separated from each other by three dots; it may look like this: 22.214.171.124. While IPv6 has eight sets of hexadecimal digits, which are separated by colons instead of dots; it may look like this: 2001 : db8: 3333 : 4444 : 5555 : 6666 : 7777 : 8888.
How does it work?
With the help of an IP address, your device can ‘communicate’ with the router and other devices outside via the Internet or local networks. It is easy to understand if you imagine sending a package to your friend. If you write only your friend’s name on it, the post office service won’t be able to identify the location to deliver the package. To make the package reach its destination, you have to provide the correct address, which can be found in a telephone address book, for example.
Almost the same process occurs while sending any data over the Internet. Of course, your computer does not use any address books, but it uses DNS servers in order to search for a hostname to find necessary IP address instead. Thus, as all devices connected to a network have their unique addresses, when you enter www.wikipedia.org into your browser, for example, this request for this page is sent to DNS servers that search for the hostname (wikipedia.org) to find corresponding IP address (126.96.36.199).
As you can see, your IP address can be tracked and not always with the best intentions. That is why treat your IP address like your home or business one to keep your data safe and anonymous.