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An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a set of numbers that is used to uniquely identify every computer and smart device that is connected to the Internet. The Internet is an IP-based network and as such you need to have an IP address to send and receive information.

You can think of an IP address as a phone number. Both you and your contact must have a valid phone number so you can communicate with one another. If a person does not have a phone number, then they cannot be contacted by phone. The exact same principle applies to the Internet where you can exchange information only with other computers and smart devices that have a proper IP address assigned to them.

Currently, there are two IP address formats that are in widespread use. The older and more established format is called IPv4 (IP version 4) and the newer format is IPv6 (IP version 6). IPv4 addresses consist of four groups of numbers that range between 0 and 255. Each group is separated by a dot. So, a valid IPv4 address would be 192.168.200.95. IPv6 addresses are a bit more complex and we will examine them in greater detail later in this article.

To maintain consistency and avoid conflicts, all IP addresses are managed and assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). It is IANA’s job to ensure that each device that connects to the Internet gets assigned a unique IP address.

IANA is the organization that oversees all IP addresses that are in use today.
IANA is the organization that oversees all IP addresses that are in use today.

IANA works in tandem with five subordinate Regional Internet Registries. Each registry manages the IP addresses in a specific geographic region. If an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or another organization requires IP addresses, then it needs to contact its governing Regional Internet Registry.

To learn more about what an IP address is, how to perform an IP lookup, and what types of IP addresses there are, continue reading or jump to the section that interests you: