How Are There Enough IP Addresses for Every Device in the World?

A single minute can witness a lot of happenings around the globe and the internet world. The year 2020 proved this point when the pandemic changed many things worldwide. As the COVID-19 spread like wildfire from a tiny spot in China, our lives changed in a never-predicted way. People moved entertainment, shopping, education, work, economy, and other life aspects online. Still, the internet welcomed them to everyone, from the little kids to energetic youths, concerned adults to worried grannies.

Currently, the number of devices accessing the internet worldwide at any given minute is record-breaking. One internet minute supports more than 500 hours of video uploads on YouTube, 400,000 hours of videos on Netflix, and an incredible 42 million messages send through WhatsApp. That same minute also holds at least 6,500 packages that Amazon ships, and 208,333 people participating in Zoom meetings.

So, what’s the secret behind this ocean called the internet? The answer lies in the working and expansion of IP Addresses. Read on.

What’s an IP Address?

Internet Protocol (IP) Address is a unique identifier assigned to every device using the internet. It consists of a string of numbers separated by periods.

Are you wondering how to check your machine’s IP Address? Type in ‘What is my IP address in the Google search box and view the top highlight in the search results.

Now, let’s get deeper a bit.

IP addresses come in two different versions: IPv4 and IPv6.

IPv4

Internet Protocol version 4 was the first standard that the public used. It’s still the most widely deployed.

When you crunch the numbers, you realize that IPv4’s 32-bit address accommodates about 4 billion addresses. Sounds like a lot, right? But it’s safe to assume that 4 billion machines wanting to go online are already existing.

IPv6

Internet Protocol version 6 is the new kid on the block. It’s an upgraded design that came as a result of speculation for the need for more addresses.

The version employs eight blocks of four hexadecimal digits. Theoretically, the number of IPv6 addresses is 340 undecillion. That’s more than the number of atoms on the Earth’s surface.

So, How Do IP Addresses Work?

When you go to the internet to send an email, shop, or chat using your computer, the request has to go to the intended destination. And the information and responses you’re looking for have to land back to you directly.

Here is where the IP address steps in to facilitate the communication. The actual connection between your machine and the internet is indirect: first, you establish a connection with a network linked to the internet. So without this network, you cannot get access to the internet. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides that network at your company, home, or a wireless network at a restaurant.

But how can your machine jump right in amidst the many computers out there?

Protocols

When connecting to the internet, your device’s networking software is designed to adhere to protocols- several networking rules and standards.

The Internet Protocol is among those networking standards. It plays the role of addressing, sending, and routing your requests accurately. It assigns an ‘electronic return address’ to every activity and requests you do online. So it uses the IP address to establish your connection.

Reading an IP Address

Octets are address’ blocks of hexadecimal digits. These blocks create an addressing system that accommodates different types of networks.

There are two parts in every IP address: a network address and host address.  That’s where the jigsaw pieces fit. The first few blocks show the network’s identity. The network’s class determines the exact number of octets.

For instance, in a Class A address, the first octet contains the network portion, while the rest of the address denotes hosts and subnets.

Phew!

Assigning of IP Addresses

An ethernet cable sitting on a white sheet of paper with IP addresses labeled.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a nonprofit US corporation that coordinates all worldwide addresses.

In the real sense, it allocates IP addresses’ blocks to regional internet registries. These registries, in turn, assign the IP addresses to Internet Service Providers, schools, companies, and other organizations within their regions. That implies that you got your IP address from your ISP or company that in turn got it from the registry.

ISP

When browsing, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) grants you access to the internet. Therefore, they are responsible for assigning an IP address to your device. In the USA, these vendors include AT&T and Time Warner Cable.

But don’t get attached to the IP address- it doesn’t really belong to you. The address can change, for example, if you switch off your router or modem. And when on vacation, restaurant, or traveling, you’ll be connecting to the internet using a different address.

The Internet Is an Expanding Ocean

The version 4 addresses (which are 32 digits long) are running out. Their service to ordinary users skyrocketed significantly from the mid-1990s when the internet world started to gain popularity.

But about 15 years ago, experts predicted that the internet world would need a better addressing system. That’s where version 6 internet protocols came into existence. They are 128 digits long, translating to two to the power of 128 (340 undecillion) possible combinations.

While the latest version is increasingly finding its use in today’s electronic devices, the old version 4 is still common with most web servers, devices, and internet communication systems like your home router. Replacing the old standards will take a long time, especially now that so many devices are already using the internet.

Even as new devices continue to demand their online spaces, longer IP addresses will not be necessary. The latest technology can redirect traffic from 16 million devices via one IP address. Chances are, your home devices are already employing it.

This ingenious technology can also split each of these 16m into another 16 million. So you don’t have to panic when authorities tell you that the internet is running out of IP addresses.

That’s why any particular internet minute can hold many devices accessing the online world. Assuming routers had sufficient processing power, each of them could support millions of devices. Everything from your fish tank to the cat flap in your home could easily access the internet.

Wrapping Up

You now have a glimpse of how your IP Address works and why you don’t have to worry about getting locked out of the internet world amidst the ongoing historic shift.

But if you need further IT-related help, don’t hesitate to let 4BIS.com know. Contact us now to see how we can be an excellent fit for your company!

James Forbis
Written by James Forbis
Posted on: March 18, 2021