The "IP" part of the IP address stands for "Internet Protocol". The "address" part refers to a unique number that is linked to all the online activities you do.
From there, it gets complicated quickly. It's confuse. Information technology (IT) is crazy and best left to those who have to deal with computers and networks.
Still, we're all on the Internet these days, and it seems like we're always connected through our personal computers, laptops, or mobile devices. And every time you use the Internet, an IP address is there, working for you.
And with a lot of obscure information (and misinformation) about the IP address, it's helpful to know the basics. That's what we're going to explain to you today.
What is an IP address?
Networks and the internet don't identify computers (of any size, not even your smartphone) by the name you give them. Computers prefer numbers, and the numbers they use as identifiers are called IP addresses.
IP stands for Internet Protocol, in Portuguese Internet Protocol, which is part of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TPC/IP).
When it comes to your computer, there are multiple IP addresses involved. One is how the computer talks to the Internet as a whole, which is your router's IP address (public IP address).
This IP address is usually assigned to the router by your Internet service provider (ISP); the router, in turn, handles all of your computer's traffic to the Internet.
Computers on internal networks, such as a home Wi-Fi, for example, have their own IP addresses assigned to them (private IP address).
In this way, all nodes on the internal network can also communicate without being exposed to the public network.
What is the IP address for?
Your computer is connected to the Internet in one way or another. When you go to email, shop or chat online, your request needs to be sent to the right destination, and the answers and information you want need to get back to you directly.
An IP address plays a significant role in this.
You and your computer indirectly connect to the Internet: first you connect to a network that is connected to the Internet itself. And this is only possible because of your IP address.
This network can be your Internet service provider (ISP) at home, or a company network at work, or a wireless network at a hotel or coffee shop when you're on the road.
What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?
IPv4 is version 4 of the protocol, while IPv6 is the sixth version of the protocol and the natural successor to IPv4.
They basically do the same thing, the big difference is that the sixth version of the protocol already works with 128 bits.
The transition from version 4 is being made to version 6 because we have reached a point where IPv4 no longer supports any new addresses, it has reached its limit.
You can better understand why this transition will take place and how it will happen by clicking here.
Is my IP address mine forever?
Easy there, grasshopper. Do not tattoo your IP address on your body, because it is not really yours.
Even at home, your IP address can change if you do something as simple as turning your modem or router on and off. You can contact your Internet service provider and they can change it for you.
If you go on vacation and bring your laptop, your home IP address does not go with you. It cannot, because on vacation you will be using another network to connect to the Internet.
When you are at a cafe in another city or state and you are using Wi-Fi to check your email, you are using a different (and temporary) IP address, the one assigned to your laptop by that cafe's ISP.
The same thing happens when you travel. As you move from the airport to the hotel or to the nearest coffee shop, your IP address will change.
You do not have to think about it, or open up your computer's settings and change them so they match the new IP address.
It all happens thanks to the clever design behind the Internet, wireless networks and all the Internet protocols your computer uses.
So don't worry! all you have to do is access a new network and you'll get a new IP address.
What is the difference between public IP address and private IP address?
A public IP address is an IP address that can be accessed over the Internet. Like the postal address used by post offices to deliver mail to your home, a public IP address is the globally unique IP address assigned to a computing device.
Your public IP address is easy to find. We'll talk about that in the next topic.
Private IP address, on the other hand, is used to assign computers to your private space without allowing them to be directly exposed to the Internet.
For example, if you have several computers in your house, you might want to use private IP addresses to address each computer in your house.
In this scenario, your router obtains the public IP address and each of the computers, tablets and smartphones connected to your router (whether via cable or Wi-Fi) obtains a private IP address from your router.
The protocol used by the router to assign IP addresses is called DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol).
How do I find my public IP address?
There may come a time when you need to know your router's IP address as assigned by your ISP. This may be necessary in some situations such as using remote access software.
What you will also find is a lot of information about you that is attached to that IP address, specifically your provider's name and your general location.
Finding out your provider and general location based on IP address is as simple as looking up a public directory.
The simplest way to check your router's public IP address is to search "what's my IP?" on Google and click on the first link.
There are many websites out there that show the exact same thing. They see you simply because, when visiting the site, their router made a request and thus revealed the IP address.
Sites like meuip.com.br, meuendereçoip.com and meuip.eu are just a few examples of them.
How to find my private IP address?
Finding your computer's private IP address is a little more complicated.
On Windows, open the Start menu and look for command prompt. Search for "cmd" (without the quotes) using Windows search. In the resulting pop-up box, type "ipconfig" (without quotes).
See that in the print the information is below: "Ethernet adapter Ethernet". If I were using Wi-Fi, it would have the information under "Wireless LAN adapter Wi-Fi".
On Mac, it's a little easier to find your private IP address. Go to System Preferences, select Network and it should be there.
On an iPhone, go to Settings > Wi-Fi and click the "i" circled next to the network you're on. The IP address, subnet, and router (gateway) will all be there.
Now that you know what your computer's IP address is, understand about HTTPS, the certificate that secures Internet transactions (including online purchases). Read: What is HTTPS? Understand everything about this certificate!