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What is an IP Address?

An IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a unique numeric identifier assigned to devices in a network. It allows data routing and communication among devices. Two versions exist: IPv4, using 32 bits, creating 4.3 billion addresses; and IPv6, using 128 bits, virtually unlimited. Both serve the internet globally.

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique identifier for devices on a network. Think of it as your home address in the online world.

Just like your postal service needs your physical address to deliver your mail, the internet needs your IP address to send and receive data.

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How Does an IP Address Work?

Every time you type a URL into your browser and hit enter, you’re asking your browser to fetch data from another device somewhere on the internet. But to do this, your browser needs to know the IP address of that device.

Your browser first contacts a system called the Domain Name System (DNS), a bit like the internet’s phonebook. The DNS looks up the URL you entered and finds the corresponding IP address.

Your browser then uses this IP address to find the suitable device and request your desired data. This process is done in a split second, so all you notice is the webpage loading on your screen.

An Easy-to-Understand Example

Imagine you’re at a massive library and looking for a specific book. But the library doesn’t use titles to organize its books; it uses unique codes. So you go to the librarian (the DNS), give them the title of the book (the URL), and they look up the unique code (the IP address) for you.

You then use this code to find the exact shelf and spot where your book is located in the vast library. This is similar to how your browser uses an IP address to locate and fetch the data of a website.

Bottom Line

In essence, an IP address is your unique online address, which browsers use to locate and retrieve the data you request.

Understanding this process helps demystify how we retrieve information from the internet and highlights the complex and efficient system that allows us to navigate the online world with just a few clicks.

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Kushal Azza

Kushal Azza

Kushal Azza is a Google Certified Analytics & IT Professional, Digital Content Creator, and Go-To Digital Marketer with an Engineering Degree. He has over a decade of experience solving tech problems, troubleshooting, and innovating digital solutions. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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