IP addresses are used in a networking protocol called TCP

Your IP address is the digital world’s equivalent of your home’s physical mailing address — it’s how computers and other devices on the Internet recognize one another. In fact, every computer network device, from your router to the websites you visit, has an IP address, which is unique for each device.

IP addresses are used in a networking protocol called TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) to identify and communicate with each other over the Internet. TCP breaks each message into smaller chunks that are then sent over the Internet in packets. Each packet has the information necessary to reach its destination, including a label that identifies its final destination and an IP address. The IP address is what tells the Internet how to forward each packet of data visit to its correct destination.

An IP address can be static (meaning it never changes) or dynamic, meaning that it may change over time. Typically, people have dynamic IP addresses on their home networks that are assigned by their ISPs. They can also have static IP addresses on work networks or devices, such as mobile phones and laptops. These are known as private IP addresses.

When you’re on a business or public WiFi connection and you access sites such as Twitter, YouTube or Facebook, the site’s servers log your IP address. It’s possible for criminals to use your IP address to track your location, to send you spam or to target advertising based on your online activities. It’s important to learn what your IP address is and how it works so that you can take steps to protect yourself from these types of attacks.

A computer’s IP address is the way it identifies itself on the network and communicates with other computers, servers and everything else on the Internet. It’s an important part of the TCP/IP protocol system that defines how computers and other network devices communicate with each other.

The most familiar type of IP address is a static one, which remains the same as long as the device that uses it is connected to the network. Static IP addresses are more common on work and school networks, as well as in homes.

When you connect your device to the Internet and it reaches out to websites, those servers have your IP address in their database, which allows them to serve up content or pages that are most relevant to you. That’s why it’s important to be aware of your browsing habits and what you’re sharing on the web.

As the number of Internet-connected devices grows, so does the need for an ever-larger pool of unique IP addresses. This is why the Internet is undergoing a transition to a new version of its network protocol, IPv6. It moves away from the 32-bit format that uses 0s and 1s to a much larger address space that includes both letters and numbers (for example, 2002:db8::8a3f:362:7897). The newer version of IP addresses will allow billions more devices to be connected to the Internet than its predecessor.