Technical Terms: IP Address

Every device connected to the Internet has an IP address. Your computer, phone, tablet and anything else you have connected is either using a unique IP address or one shared by your household, company or building. Web servers and services also have IP addresses and domain names are automatically translated to IP addresses in order for you to access sites. You IP address can be used to trace you, but it isn't easy.

Video Transcript
Let's take a look at a term that you may have heard of. It's IP Address. So what is IP Address? Well, IP stands for internet protocol. So technically it's Internet Protocol Address. So an IP address is your location on the internet. The word address is used just in the same way it would used for your house or apartment. Right. It's your location. It also stands for the location of something else on the internet. Like a website for instance. So, a website has an IP address and you, your computer or phone or other gadget, also has an IP address.

Now it could be more than that. It could be any kind of thing. It could be an object, say an internet camera or some sort of device like a refrigerator that's connected to the internet. Any thing that's connected to the internet has an IP address.

An IP Address is basically four numbers. Those numbers are from 0-255. So you might see a number like 172.16.254.1. Right. Each of those four numbers is a number between zero and 255. So the combinations are 256 to the 4th or 3.6 billion IP addresses. That's a lot. When the IP address system originated it seemed like it was enough for everything. But, of course, now that everybody has phones and computers and there's all sorts of devices everywhere with IP addresses we basically have run out.

There's something called IPv6 which is, instead of four numbers, it's six numbers. So way more devices can actually have an unique IP address. The transition has been slow in going to IPv6. Most devices now can support IPv6 but they don't necessarily do it. We're still, for the most part, on the internet using IPv4.

Now some of these numbers actually can reveal kind of a location. Like, for instance, the first two numbers maybe the country and then maybe a company that has bought a block of IP addresses or maybe a telecommunications company or cable company or something like that. So people that say all use the same cable company to get their IP address because they're connected through that company may have the first two numbers be exactly the same or there might be a variety of groups that are similar that belong to that company. So there's a little bit of logic to it. They're not just randomly assigned numbers. They do make sense and you can actually, sometimes, look at a number and say, oh this is number or this person is in United States or maybe even which state they're in or maybe they're hooked up to an internet service provider at a specific location. It's not perfect though. So it's not definitive proof of where an IP address is located but there is some logic to it.

Now you can find out your IP address pretty easily. As a matter of fact so many people search for it that Google just tells it to you when you do a search. Is if you search for What is My IP address you're going to get a screen that looks like this. It's going to give you the number of your current IP address. It doesn't really matter what your IP address is but it's interesting to see it. You can also go to lots of websites that do it like What Is My IP Address.com has been around forever and before Google starting providing this, you know, people would just go there.

So here's the thing about your IP address. It may change. If you are using a standard internet service provider, like a cable modem or DSL company, then you may have the same IP address for a couple of hours, for a few days, or even a few months and then it may change the next time you log on. They just kind of assign one to you temporarily and it doesn't necessarily change all the time but it'll change.

Another thing is your IP address may be shared. It's probably shared by all the devices in your house. In other words your modem has an IP address and all the devices in your house share that one. It could be that you share it with more people. Like all the people in your company or maybe your apartment building where, you know, everybody has Wi-Fi from the apartment building and you all have the same IP address or maybe from a small group of them.

So, website and service IP addresses are usually static, but they change every once in awhile. How does this all work? Like if a server has an IP address, you know, you're not typing an IP address to go to the server. You're typing in a name like Google.com, or Apple.com. Or there's something called the DNS, Domain Name Server system, that basically is like an address book or a telephone book saying that Apple.com maps to a certain IP address. Every time you type Apple.com to go to the site it actually looks up the IP address and actually goes to the IP address through a series of numbers for that server.

Now larger sites like Apple or Google can actually have multiple IP addresses. There might be a certain IP address for people in Northern California and a different one for people in Pennsylvania. So it depends how big the site is whether they have multiple servers serving up the same content and going to different addresses. You can look up any website you want just by going to terminal and typing nslookup and the name of the site like google.com and it will tell you what IP address you'd be going to if you went to it on the web. It's not something you need to do. It's just kind of interesting.

So IP addresses are invisible to the normal users. They're meant to be. You don't have to deal with them. They can be used to trace you. How are they used to trace you? Well, if say you were to do something like, you know, copy some movies or something online. There would be a subpoena to your ISP to say Who was doing this. They could actually lookup the IP address and say this IP address was assigned to this house on that day. So there can be some tracing used with IP addresses. But typically it's pretty difficult to do. It's something that like a big company and a subpoena or something like that would be needed to do. A little bit easier if say there was a corporation you worked for and you did something on your computer. The IT Department could probably trace your IP address to find out whose computer at the company was using that IP at the time.

So it's something to keep in mind. But typical users don't have to deal with IP addresses. It's just interesting stuff to know. A little behind the scenes look at how the internet works.

Comments: One Response to “Technical Terms: IP Address”

    PhilK
    10/20/18 @ 3:30 am

    Around the 2min mark you talk about IPv6 and that it’s 6 numbers instead of 4; however, your screen-shot still shows 256(4) instead of 256(6). Was a little confused.
    BTW – Brilliant vids, huge fan. I watch and ‘like’ all of them on YouTube.

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