Updated: 01/31/2019 by Computer Hope

IP may refer to any of the following:

Illustration: The Internet Protocol.1. The IP (Internet Protocol) is the fundamental protocol for communications on the Internet. It specifies the way information is packetized, addressed, transferred, routed, and received by networked devices.

IP history

Its development began in 1974, led by computer scientists Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf. It is frequently used in conjunction with the Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP. Together they are referred to as TCP/IP.

The first major version of the Internet Protocol was version 4, or IPv4. In 1981, it was formally defined in RFC 791 by the Internet Engineering Task Force, or IETF.

The successor to IPv4 is IPv6, which was formalized by the IETF in 1998. It was designed to eventually replace IPv4. As of 2018, IPv6 governs approximately 20% of all Internet traffic.

IP addresses

IP addressAn IP address is a number identifying of a computer or another device on the Internet. It is similar to a mailing address, which identifies where postal mail comes from and where it should be delivered. IP addresses uniquely identify the source and destination of data transmitted with the Internet Protocol.

IPv4 and IPv6 addresses

IPv4 addresses are 32 bits long (four bytes). An example of an IPv4 address is, which is the front page of Google.com.

The maximum value of a 32-bit number is 232, or 4,294,967,296. So the maximum number of IPv4 addresses, which is called its address space, is about 4.3 billion. In the 1980s, this was sufficient to address every networked device, but scientists knew that this space would quickly become exhausted. Technologies such as NAT have delayed the problem by allowing many devices to use a single IP address, but a larger address space is needed to serve the modern Internet.

A major advantage of IPv6 is that it uses 128 bits of data to store an address, permitting 2128 unique addresses, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. The size of IPv6's address space — 340 duodecillion — is much, much larger than IPv4.

IP address classes

With an IPv4 IP address, there are five classes of available IP ranges: Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D and Class E, while only A, B, and C are commonly used. Each class allows for a range of valid IP addresses, shown in the following table.

Class Address range Supports
Class A1.0.0.1 to 16 million hosts on each of 127 networks.
Class B128.1.0.1 to 65,000 hosts on each of 16,000 networks.
Class C192.0.1.1 to 254 hosts on each of 2 million networks.
Class D224.0.0.0 to for multicast groups.
Class E240.0.0.0 to Reserved for future use, or research and development purposes.

Ranges 127.x.x.x are reserved for the loopback or localhost, for example, is the loopback address. Range broadcasts to all hosts on the local network.

IP address breakdown

Every IPv4 address is broken down into four octets (which is another name for bytes), and translated into binary to represent the actual IP address. The table below looks at the IPv4 address

Tip: For more information about binary numbers, see our binary to hexadecimal conversion guide.

In decimal:255255255255
In binary:11111111111111111111111111111111
In octal:377377377377
In hexadecimal:FFFFFFFF

As another example, let's break down the IPv4 address in the following table. The first row contains the separate octets (bytes) of the IP address, represented in decimal. In decimal representation, the rightmost digit is multiplied by 1 (100), the second-rightmost digit is multiplied by 10 (101), the third-rightmost is multiplied by 100 (102), etc.

The second row of the table shows the same numeric values, represented in binary. In binary, the rightmost digit is multiplied by 1 (20), the second-rightmost digit is multiplied by 2 (21), the third-rightmost digit is multiplied by 4 (22), etc.

The third row shows how the binary representation can be converted to decimal, by converting the individual digits and adding the values. Binary digits in bold correspond to the values added.

Decimal value:166701023
Binary value:10100110010001100000101000010111

Static vs. dynamic IP addresses

IP addresses are assigned in two different ways. They may be dynamically assigned (they can change automatically) or statically assigned (they're intended not to change, and must be changed manually). Most home networks use dynamic allocation. Your router uses DHCP to temporarily assign, or "lease," an IP address to your device. After a period of time, this lease "expires," and the router renews your old address or assigns you a new one, depending on the needs of the network and the configuration of the router.

The most common default addresses assigned by home routers are shown below. number, called the network number, identifies the network as a whole, and is not assigned to a device. common default address assigned to the gateway device. In most home networks, the gateway is the router itself. common gateway address. Or, it may be assigned to a device on the network.–254Assigned to devices on the network. broadcast address of the network. Data sent to this address is automatically broadcast to addresses 1–254.

If you have ever tried to change the settings on your router, you may be familiar with the address Commonly, this is your router's address, If you enter this address into the address bar of your web browser, you can open your router's configuration interface. (Your router's address may be different - check your manual.)

How data is sent to an IP address on another network

The following diagram illustrates how your home computer might obtain an IP address and send data to an IP address on another network.

Connecting to the Internet

For more information, see how do computers connect to each other over the Internet?

Other Internet protocols

IP is just one protocol that devices use to communicate on the Internet. Some are used in conjunction with IP, and some are used independently. Examples include SMTP, which is used to transmit e-mail, and HTTP, which is used to transmit hypermedia.

For more information about protocols in general, see our protocol definition.

Other IP address questions and answers

2. IP is a Linux command for setting and viewing network configuration. For more information, see our ip command overview.

3. IP is an abbreviation used to shorten "Ingress Protection" in Ingress Protection Rating (IP Rating).

Binary, CIDR, Computer acronyms, External IP address, ICANN, Internal IP address, Internet address, InterNIC, IP spoofing, Localhost, Netmask, Network terms, Ping, Protocol, Reserved address space, Subnet