What is the “IP” in IP Address?

IP is something that you have seen associated with your computer’s internet connection. For the most part you have probably ignored it, assuming that it was some sort of technical code that made things work but was beyond anything you really needed to know about or understand. In some ways, you are correct. IP and the IP address is most commonly a concern of IT guys. However, knowing some of the basics about IP and IP software is important when it comes to understanding issues of security. For this reason, a basic understanding of IP and the IP suite can be valuable.

This article is designed to provide you with a very basic definition for the meaning behind IP, give you some history of its development and deployment, and then go into a deeper definition of IP and how it directly affects you. With these objectives in mind, let’s begin.

Basic Definition

The letters IP stand for internet protocol. IP is a part of what is known as the internet protocol suite and is commonly recognized with its suitemate transmission control protocol (TCP). It is likely that you have seen the two together as TCP/IP. It is less frequently understood or labeled as the Department of Defense (DoD) model, which is where the networking method has its foundation through Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

What is its purpose?

The purpose of the TCP/IP internet protocol suite is establish a set of foundational protocols through which computers are able to connect and interact with each other within local networks or the internet as a whole. The IP address is more or less a name or label generated from your computer’s location in order for identifying what information has been requested and sent from which locations. Here’s a simplified example:

When you place an order in many fast food restaurants, delis or coffee shops, you are given a number or you present your name. When your order is ready, your number or name is called out so that you can receive the contents of your order. In simple terms, this number or name assigned to you when you place an order is like an IP address. It not only works for delivering your order, but it also serves the function of identifying what items are to be processed and delivered by the workers behind the counter in order to fulfill your request.

There are a lot more layers connected to this process than the two mentioned here, but this is the basic definition and function of the IP address and the internet protocol suite (TCP/IP). Let’s move on to a brief examination of IP’s developmental history.

History of IP Development

You may or may not be shocked to learn that Al Gore did not invent the internet in the 1980s, but that the concepts for its development were actually beginning in the late 1960s with the development of DARPA, which came out of an agency established in 1958 by President Eisenhower’s administration known as Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Their main focus in the beginning was to work on various forms of data transmission technologies. Initial development was focused around satellite networks and highly instrumental in the communications required for space exploration projects.

Development of NCP and TCP Programs

The early to mid 1970s saw the development of the first open-architecture interconnections in the form of the network control program (NCP) protocol, which developed into transmission control program (TCP) in 1974. At the outset of TCP, it managed both transmissions and routing, but as the protocol became more advanced and developed more layers, it began to be divided into various layers. Consequently, TCP was split into the two protocols we are familiar with today TCP/IP.

Early Testing of TCP/IP

Initial testing of TCP/IP was ongoing between 1975 and 1983 as various networks in the US, UK and Norway developed data transmission between the defense departments of these three countries. The US Department of Defense established TCP/IP as the official standard for all military computer networking. Broader adoption of TCP/IP advanced after 1985 under the oversight of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).

TCP/IP as the Foundation for the Internet

Another code name you might recognize file transfer program (FTP) was a program developed for transferring files established in 1986. The structural foundation of our modern internet was in place and was beginning to be rolled out in 1989 when UC, Berkley placed TCP/IP in the public domain. Various venders began to place TCP/IP among their file stacks from that point forward and Windows 95 included it in its native stack. That move by Microsoft sealed the dominance of TCP/IP as the primary internet protocol that it is today.

In-Depth Definition of IP Address

Our earlier definition provided you with a basic definition of what the IP in your IP address stands for, but there is a lot more involved in its definition than what we first addressed. Here is a more in-depth definition of the significance of an IP address.

IP Address Function

The best way to understand the function of an IP address is to use a simple concept, like an email message and trace it through its various steps. When you send or receive an email message, it gets divided into small chucks referred to as packets. Contained within each of these packets are both the sender’s internet address and the receiver’s internet address. Each packet goes through a serious of steps:

1. The gateway computer for the message, which contains TCP/IP in its file stacks, reads the destination address and forwards it to an adjacent gateway.
2. The adjacent gateway reads the destination address and forwards it to an additional gateway, passing the packet from one to another.
3. At some point, one of the gateways recognizes the packet as being addressed to a computer within its neighborhood or domain.
4. This domain gateway passes the packet to the specific computer it is intended for.

In essence, the IP protocol is the mail or package delivery system. It functions in a similar manner as sending a package across the country to someone’s business or home address. The divided packages might take a variety of different routes in order to arrive at their destination. When the packages arrive, the TCP protocol puts them back together so that the message sent can be read by the individual receiving it.

Tech Target clarifies that “IP is a connectionless protocol, which means that there is no continuing connection between the end points that are communicating. Each packet that travels through the Internet is treated as an independent unit of data without any relation to any other unit of data.” This means that there is no permanent connection formed between the sending computer and the receiving computer, just like there is no direct connection between someone who sends a package through a carrier to another person.

However, because an IP address is more or less like a cyber mailing address, it is a means by which your computer can be located in a digital sense. Though not common, this ability to locate your computer can have an effect on your security.

Quick Facts Summary of IP

Because there are a number of various effects that go beyond the descriptions and definitions above, this quick summary of the facts surrounding IP can help clarify its overall effect and importance to you as you utilize the internet.

• IP stands for Internet Protocol. Protocols are a set of rules or procedures that must be followed in a specific order.

• IP is networking software. IP is included in your file stacks within your computer’s setup procedures along with TCP and allows your computer to send and receive date via the internet.
• IP is more or less the common language of the internet which allows computers all around the world to be able to communicate with each other.
• IP is universal. Regardless of the hardware you are using the IP process works the same.
• IP is versatile. All laptops, desktops, printers, cell phones, tablets or other network accessible devices follow IP as the necessary means of locating and communicating between devices and each has an IP address.
• The TCP/IP is a suite or stack of protocols that pass data from one layer to the next in a properly ordered sequence.
• The Internet Protocol is what makes connectivity, whether within an inter office network or the wider global network of the world wide web.
• All devices on a network are required to have an IP address in order to be located.
• Computers identify websites and email addresses by their IP numbers, but we see them in the form of recognizable names for easier reference.
• You can view your computer’s IP address at anytime by using this link.

With a greater understanding of what an IP address is, you will be able to identify and understand how it functions and the potential effects it can have when it comes to your personal security and the security of your devices. If you are concerned about security issues and being located, it is a good idea to obtain a better understanding of how you might be tracked using your IP address and how to hide it. [set up for internal links]