What is an IP Address and How Does It Work?

An IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a unique identifier assigned to devices on the internet, enabling communication between them. Understanding how IP addresses work is essential to comprehend the functioning of the internet. Before you start, you can read our article What is dns?

IP Address Format: IPv4 and IPv6

There are two versions of IP addresses: IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) and IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6).

IPv4 addresses consist of four sets of numbers separated by periods. Each set contains a value ranging from 0 to 255, such as “”. However, with the rapid growth of internet users, IPv4 addresses became insufficient to accommodate the increasing demand for connectivity.

IPv6 addresses were introduced to address this limitation. They employ a hexadecimal format and consist of eight groups of four hexadecimal digits separated by colons. For example, “2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334” is an IPv6 address. The switch to IPv6 allows for a significantly larger pool of unique addresses, enabling more devices to connect to the internet.

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Public and Private IP Addresses

Public IP addresses are assigned by internet service providers (ISPs) and are globally unique. They allow devices to communicate directly with other devices on the internet. Public IP addresses are necessary for hosting websites, running servers, or establishing direct connections between devices across the internet.

On the other hand, private IP addresses are used within local networks, such as home or office networks. These addresses are assigned by routers and are not directly accessible from the internet. Private IP addresses provide a means for devices within a network to communicate with each other

The Importance of IP Addresses

IP addresses play a crucial role in enabling communication between devices on the internet. They facilitate the exchange of information among devices and ensure that data packets are correctly routed to their intended destinations. Having an IP address allows a device to participate in the flow of data on the internet.

Additionally, IP addresses are essential for internet traffic routing and ensuring the proper delivery of data. Data packets are routed based on the sender’s IP address and the destination’s IP address. This ensures that information on the internet reaches the appropriate device.

How IP Addresses Work

When a device connects to the internet, it is assigned an IP address by the network it joins. This IP address serves as a unique identifier for the device. When two devices communicate over the internet, data is broken down into packets, and each packet contains the IP address of the sender and the recipient.

To deliver data packets, routers examine the destination IP address in each packet and determine the most efficient path for forwarding the packets across the internet. The routers use routing tables and protocols to direct the packets from the source device to the destination device, ensuring proper delivery.


IP addresses are the backbone of the internet, facilitating communication between devices across networks. They enable the routing and delivery of data packets, ensuring that information reaches its intended recipients. Understanding IP addresses is crucial for comprehending the workings of the internet and how devices connect and interact with each other.

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