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IP address: what is it?


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A technical term not very affordable for novices, the IP address is nevertheless at the heart of internet communication.

This series of numbers makes it possible to identify your computer when it connects to the Internet. More broadly, all devices that have an internet connection have this IP address: smartphone, tablet, printers, etc.

How does it work ? Who decides on its allocation? How to find out about yours? Find the answers to your questions in this article!

IP address: what is it?

How does an IP address work?

An IP address (or Internet Protocol Address) is a series of numbers that identifies a device connected to the Internet. It is based on the internet protocol which is the foundation of the internet network. As with a postal address, it allows data to be routed to your machine. In other words, it tells the network where to find the device which “requested” the information.

Each connected device has an assigned IP address. The latter can also be assigned to a set of devices, especially if you have a home network that allows multi-broadcasting (eg multiroom installations to listen to music in all the rooms of the house). In some cases, a device may also receive more than one of these identification numbers. However, each of these IP addresses is only assigned once.

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How is it attributed?

IP addresses are “distributed” by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Today, these registrations are managed according to the IPv4 protocol, which automatically assigns a series of digits. This system makes it possible to create nearly 4.3 billion different addresses. With the number of devices increasing considerably (with connected objects, etc.), we are gradually switching to the IPv6 protocol, which makes it possible to create and assign up to nearly 340 sextillion IP addresses.

Our devices can also be assigned a fixed IP address and another called “dynamic”. A static IP address is an address that does not change, so it is more easily traceable. It is mainly used for web servers which always remain available at the same URL. They are also used for the use of local printer or for a device connected to a home network.

As for the dynamics, they are provided by your internet service provider (ISP) temporarily each time you connect to your internet box. Your ISP provides you with a new IP address each time you connect. They are mainly used for internet browsing. They allow, among other things, better protection of your privacy and better maintain your anonymity, because more complicated to follow.

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What is it for ?

Not only does this registration allow devices to communicate with each other on the network, but it also makes it possible in certain cases to block the access of certain devices to certain information. For example, the Netflix streaming platform based on the local IP addresses of its subscribers to regionalize its service. As copyright and distribution rights are not the same from one country to another, these IP addresses allow the geolocation of the user in France to block access to the American catalog.

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How do I know my IP address?

Some websites allow you to easily find out your IP address, among which:

  • the CNIL website which gives you the procedure to find your IP address according to your operating system (Windows, MacOS X, Linux): informatique

This information is part of your personal data: it allows you to know your approximate location and your Internet service provider. This information is nevertheless public and used, for example, by advertising agencies to target advertisements on the Internet. The storage of your IP address by a third party must therefore be declared to the CNIL. It is nevertheless possible to guard against intrusion or hacking using a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

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