Everyone who has used the internet has probably heard the term IP Address, but do you know what it really means? IP stands for Internet Protocol, and it is a unique numerical address that each computer that reaches the internet uses to route packets (information) across the web.
In much the same way that your home address helps the mailman find your house to send and receive mail, your IP address allows internet routing protocols the information they need to move information to and from your computer.
Each time you send or receive information, both the IP address of the source and destination computer appear on that information, just like the info on the front of an envelope. You may be surprised to find out that your IP address actually points to a geographical location- your IP address lets the virtual world know where you are in the real world!
Your next question may be how to find out what your own IP address is. If you are using Windows, open an MSDOS or command windo and type in “winipcfg” or “ipconfig”. Your computer will display your IP address. If you use a Mac, open your network control panel to find out your IP address. If you are online with your home computer or any other device, you and look up your IP address by using your favorite search engine to find a site that will display that information for you. Whenever you visit a website, the site generally tracks your IP address and other information, unless you use software called an “anonymizer” that hides that info. Your IP address can be used by sites to find out where their customers are coming from geographically, track abuse or misuse, or for so-called geo-targeted marketing in which users are shown ads based on their geographic location.
An IP address contains four bytes of information which are displayed as four numbers between 0 and 255 which are separated by periods. Each of the four bytes of information uses eight bits of space which represent the binary digits 00000000 to 11111111 or 0 to 255. The total number of IP addresses that are possible equals more than 4 billion, or 256 multiplied four times. IP addresses are managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which assigns IP addresses to research groups, educational facilities, government entities, and internet service providers in blocks, much the way phone numbers are assigned. The official list of IP address blocks is found online at the Internet Protocol Address Space site, or at the IP Index Encyclopedia.
You can lookup more information about a specific IP address by using online databases that log data relating to IP addresses. Depending on how you connect to the Internet, you may have a permanently assigned IP address, or it may change each time you log on. The same is true of other IP addresses, so you may or may not be able to find the specific location of another persons IP address through these searches.