IP Address, what in the world?
We are going to start off this introductory post with the following quick exercise.
- Open a new tab on your current browser or open up another browser of your choice
- Navigate to http://188.8.131.52
- If all goes well, you should be on Cloudflare’s private DNS homepage.
Now, what the heck happened?
To explain what really happened, we need to understand a bit about how the internet works.
The internet is basically a group (network) of computers located around the world, housing data in numerous formats and able to share them with each other.
For these computers to be able to communicate with each other, all individual computers on the network (internet) are mapped to unique addresses. Think of this as kind of like having a Post Office Box (P.O Box), with a knowledge of your P.O Box, anyone can send you correspondence (mail) and be sure that it would get to you because that box (address) belongs to you and you alone.
This is not very far from what happens with the internet.
Internet Protocol (IP) Address
IP addresses are simply unique addresses, used to identify devices on the internet or a local network. As we all know, the computer at a lower level usually prefers to deal with numbers, thus these addresses are just numerical labels.
An IP address usually looks something like:
This basically consists of four sets of numbers separated by dots, each ranging from 0 to 255. Each part represents an octet (group of 8 bits) of the address. This particular format of representation is technically referred to as the dot-decimal notation.
Types of IP Address
IP addresses are of two types:
- Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4)
IPv4 addresses posses a size of 32 bits, which limits the number of addresses that can be allocated to about 4,294,967, 296 addresses. It is nice to note that out of this number, not everyone one of them can be allocated as they are reserved for private networks and multicast addresses.
- Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)
IPv6 on the other hand has an increased address size of about 128 bits, thus, being able to allow up to 2¹²⁸ addresses.
IPv4 is older and is currently the most widely used while IPv6 on the other hand is newer and still in the adoption stage. The reason for the introduction of IPv6 is fairly straightforward — to be able to sustain the rapid growth of the internet as it is only a matter of time before we max out available spaces on IPv4.
How does this relate to me?
If you somehow are reading this by mistake, you obviously might be wondering what you have to do with IP addresses by now as you may not have had any cause to use this random piece of numbers all your time on the cyberspace.
Well, you’re right, unless you’re in fact not reading this post by mistake. The average day-to-day internet user rarely has any need to interact with IP addresses, all thanks to something called a Domain Name Server (DNS).
To get a grasp of what a DNS is and how it helps you, let’s try to understand what basically happens when you visit a website on your device.
When you navigate to a website, say https://grabify.link on your browser, you’re basically typing in a domain name, but because the computers on the internet (servers) only know themselves by their numbers (IPs) and not text/words, they’re by default unable to understand what you're looking for.
So if the above is true, how come I still end up at the destination I wanted and the information/resource I requested?
Okay, here’s what really happened under the hood. Your browser (the client) queried a Domain Name Server, pretty much asking it — Hey DNS, I am 192.168.1.1, this human wants me to connect to and access some resources on another computer (server), he has provided a domain name (grabify.link) for it, kindly help me find the IP address of the computer mapped to that domain name so I can communicate with.
Think of a DNS as your phone book. Imagine not being able to store the phone numbers of your friends with their names/text identifiers attached? Imagine having to memorize the numerical phone numbers of each and every one of them. Now if you’re anything like me and not Matrix, there’s no doubt this would be next to impossible.
A DNS simply exists to map these IP addresses (computers) to unique human-readable and memorable names (domain names) chosen by their owners. They not only do this mapping, but also resolve these IP addresses during internet browsing (when you’re visiting sites).
How do I find out my IP or lookup someone else’s ?
As earlier mentioned, if you’re just an average everyday user of the internet, you’re likely never to have any need to interact with IP addresses. But if you ever have a need to, be it borne out of curiosity or perhaps something leading to something, here’s how you can get this piece of information.
— To find your own IP:
You just need to visit an IP lookup tool. There are lots of IP lookup services out there, however, we recommend this one, as it works pretty well and checks all our boxes.
Note: You do not need to perform any extra action aside just visiting the link, as the IP information is automatically extracted from your web request.
— To lookup someone else’s IP:
To ‘lookup’ an IP simply means to checkout information associated to an IP address. Thus, to be able to look up another person’s IP you need to have found out what their IP address is. As you likely already know, this is the main service that Grabify efficiently offers.
Want to know how to find and lookup someone’s IP all at the same time using Grabify? Then you certainly should read this.
Note: You might find that your IP addresses changes from time to time, this is because your Internet Service Provider (ISP) typically assigns you a dynamic IP, part of the reason for this as earlier explained is due to IPv4, the most widely used IP address type, not being able to provide enough static IP addresses to go around.
In this post, I tried to give a non-technical explanation of what Internet Protocol (IP) Addresses are, the role they play within the internet and how we interact with them in our everyday internet use. I hope this helps you understand a bit more about how the internet we call home works.