IP Address Lookup
An IP address is the unique numerical label (or digital ID) associated with a device connected to a computer network through the Internet Protocol for communication. The Internet Protocol is the shared language used by devices to exchange information with one another through local and public networks.
In other words, whenever someone goes online, they request for their PC, laptop, smartphone, or tablet to send and receive digital data. For that to happen, they need an identifying "digital address" known as the IP address. Each electronic device is then linked to a network with direct access to the internet, which is granted access to the internet.
The two primary functions of an IP address are to host interface identification and to facilitate location addressing. The IP address itself is a numerical 32-bit binary label set in a dotted-decimal format.
The decimal digits are subdivided into four 8-bit fields (called "octets") separated by dots (.), with every segment representing a byte of the IP address. The first part of the IP address serves as "network ID", while the rest defines the specific network connection knows as "host ID".
The distribution of IP addresses is hierarchical. At the top level is The Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers (ICAAN). One of its departments is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). This is the main operator that coordinates and manages the internet as we know it and the numbering rules behind DNS and IP addresses.
IANA distributes large blocks of IP addresses to five continental Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). Next, the RIRs assign smaller IP address blocks to ISPs and other network operators. From there, Internet operators and the ISPs allocate IP addresses to the end-users.
There are two main types of IP address formats in common use: IPv4 and IPv6. Although IPv4 and IPv6 currently coexist, the generic IP address still uses for reference, the IPv4 format. The gap in version sequence is caused by the fact that versions v1 to v9 did exist (for instance, the TCP v1 and v2 protocols were developed as early as 1974 and 1977), but only v4 and v6 gained extensive use.
As the original type of IP address looked like "188.8.131.52", and each set of numbers could only vary from 0 to 255, running out of IP numbers was just a matter of time. This classic address format was called IPv4 as in "version 4" and it was first deployed in 1983 in the predecessor of the internet called "ARPANET". But IPv4 only supported a maximum of around 4.3 billion unique IP addresses. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) had to tap into new technologies to redesign and expand the architecture of the addressing capability.
In 2019, RIPE NCC, one of the five Regional Internet Registries in control of allocating IP addresses to ISPs in more than 80 countries in Europe, the former USSR, and West Asia, warned that just one million IPv4 addresses were left. That's where the standardized solution IPv6 ("version 6") stepped in.
Designed in 1998, but with a commercial distribution initiated in June 2012, the IP address length was increased to 128 bits with IPv6 (compared to the previous IPv4's 32-bit). It can define up to 2128 nodes and contains eight different groups of four hexadecimal digits, for instance, "1001:0db7:73a4:0000:0000:6a1b:0370:6112".
With the sole purpose of gradually replacing IPv4 protocol at some point, it virtually supports a limit number that is technically impossible to run out in the foreseeable future. More precisely, the IPv6 address pool is estimated at 340 undecillion, which equals 340 trillion trilliontrillion.
As both IPv4 and IPv6 networks can be split into subnetworks, in addition to the IPv4's network prefix and the host identifier, IPv6 includes an interface identifier (IPv6) that numbers hosts, within a network. An interim deployment solution between the two is Carrier-Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT), which enables prolonged use of IPv4 addresses.
The main advantages of IPv6 over IPv4 are:
Theoretically, IPv6 should be better and faster than IPv4 and should "speed up the internet", as it's frequently claimed. This is because IPv6 data packets go straight to the internet without passing through carrier NAT systems. However, IPv6 also handles larger packets, which in some circumstances could lead to a slower deployment than with IPv4.
With time, IPv6 will gain enough maturity to be completely optimized. By continuously fine-tuning it, this new architecture will boost the overall IP connectivity performance, efficiency, and security.
Private IP addresses are used to assign digital devices to a private or local network without being directly visible on the internet. Private IP addresses are reserved for internal use behind a Network Address Translation (NAT) device or a router, and no traffic can be sent to them from the internet.
On the other hand, public IP addresses are allocated by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), can be accessed over the internet, and cannot be used within a business or home network. When we connect to the internet, only the router's public IP address is visible while our private IP address is hidden.
Private IP addresses have a local scope (to communicate within the network); the Local Network Operator creates them, which is free of cost, and can be located through the ipconfig command. On the contrary, public IP addresses have a global scope (to communicate outside the network); they're controlled and created by Internet Service Providers controls. They come with a cost and can be searched on search engines like Google by typing "what is my IP".
Private IP addresses are safer for internet security because they're protected by NAT and are not publicly exposed, unlike public IP addresses. That's why the use of public IP addresses requires additional security measures.
In a nutshell, yes. A router uses an external IP address to communicate outside its private firewall, and a public IP is used for access to external networks. Therefore, they're practically the same thing.
For users who wish to browse the internet more anonymously, there are many ways of hiding their public IP address, such as: