You can't connect to the internet without one.
Connecting all of the different devices we use to the internet is not an easy task. Each new phone, tablet, smartwatch and wifi enabled house plant that comes online, makes things a little more complicated as each device needs to be connected to the same global network.
When you think about all the things you use the internet for, whether it’s sending an iMessage or searching something on Google, every activity requires you to have a unique number, called an IP address.
What is an IP address?
An IP address is a unique set of numbers that other computers and devices connected to the internet can use to send you the websites, messages and candy crush scores you try to access. It’s kind of like your internet phone number, telling other computers where you can be reached.
What is my IP address?
You can find your current IP address by visiting this beautifully bear-inhabited map. Your IP address is tied to a physical location on the map that is set by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Does my IP address change?
If you connect from your local coffee shop, you will have the same IP address as everyone else there. It also means that when you go home and reconnect that your IP address will change to your home address. Your IP address is based on the place you’re connecting from, not necessarily the device you’re using.
How is my IP addressed used when I access a website?
- When you type google.com into your address bar, it may seem as though Google’s homepage just magically appears on your screen, but what actually happens is you’re sending a message from your computer to Google’s computer.
- When Google receives this message, they reply with another message which tells your computer to show Google.com on your screen. This all happens in less than a second.
- Your IP address is automatically included in every message you send, which means that websites always know where to send their reply.
- Just the same as you’d write your return address on the back of an envelope you put in the mail, your IP address is used to identify the location on the internet where a website or service (like iMessage) can reach you.
This is a very simple explanation of how IP addresses work.
To continue reading, check out how are IP addresses assigned.