Every device, or machine, which connects to the Internet requires an IP Address (Internet Protocol Address) in today's world. It may not make much sense to you and how it all works, however to connect to the Internet, you need an IP Address to be able to do the things you do with the Internet in your day to day activities.
One of the core parts of the Internet delivery network
In it's simplest form, its a bit like your home postal address. In order to recieve mail to your home, the person or company sending you the mail must have your correct mailing address. This is the same for all machines and devices on the Internet. Without this specific address, information is unable to be recieved and delivered.
IPv4 is the main foundation of the Internet you are currently browsing this website on. At present the Internet currently runs on this IPv4 standard, and it is how a machine or device connects all over the world to transfer data down the information super highway. Well thats not strictly true as some devices have started to be deployed using the IPv6 standard, however the majority are connecting through IPv4.
An IP Address is a numerical label assigned to each machine or device on a computer network that uses an Internet connection. IP addresses are in binary numbers, but they are stored and displayed in a human readable form, such as 192.168.0.1
With the Internet's dramatic growth, it soon developed a headache, a problem you could say. Saturation point of the IPv4 standard was ineviatable, it was just a matter of time. With the IPv4 IP Addressing Protocol being 32-Bit, it meant that it could only ever provide little more than 4.3 billion IP addresses across our vast world. Eventually IPv4 would become exhausted. This lead to the creation of a few new technologies over time have been adopted and created over the years to help relieve the issue. Technologies like Network Address Translation (NAT), Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) and the relatively new standard called IPv6 have allowed the Internet to carry on, allowing users like you, to be able to browse the Internet as we currently do.
4,294,967,296 IP addresses are available on IPv4 to be exact
With the creation of technologies like Network Address Translation, it allowed IPv4 to reserve special address blocks for private networks (approximately 18 million addresses) and multicast addresses (approximately 270 million addresses). This meant that Internet Routers within networks could allow devices and machines to share the IP address and translate the information within it's network.
In February 2011, all IPv4 IP addresses became completely exhausted and no more IP addresses were available to be assigned or allocated to providers across the world. And so the next journey began to try and release IPv6 to the Internet world.
Due to the Internet's rapid growth after it became accessible to the world in the 1990's, it became more evident that more IP addresses would eventually be needed. In 1998, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) had created and finalised a new standard protocol. IPv6 uses a 128-Bit address, which gives us approximately 340 undecillion IP addresses. More than enough IP Addresses, wouldn't you say?
Now that is one magical number
Sadly when the creation of IPv6 came about, it was never designed to work together with IPv4, which has complicated the transition across the world to IPv6. Over time however, a few different mechinisms have been devised to allow communication between IPv4 and IPv6 hosts.