Internet: Dynamic and Static Addresses

Internet: Dynamic and Static Addresses

Every computer operating on the Internet has a unique IP, or Internet protocol, address. Because the Internet's original design did not take into account the vast size it would assume from the mid-1990s onward, as more and more people went online, the architecture did not account for an infinite number of IP addresses. To conserve these, an Internet service provider (ISP) has a limited number of permanent IP addresses, and issues temporary IP addresses for customers to use while online. The permanent and temporary IP locations are known as static and dynamic addresses, respectively.

An IP address takes the form of a dot address, or a dotted quad, that looks something like this: 123.456.789.000. Each of the three-digit numbers represents 8 bits of information, forming a 32-bit address that defines the Internet protocol. Because the Internet is really a network connecting various smaller computer networks, the IP address begins with data indicating the particular network to which a computer belongs. For very large networks, a great portion of the IP number gives the local address, whereas for extremely small networks, the majority of the address identifies the network, with only the last few numbers serving as a unique identifier.

In cases of computer crime or espionage, an IP address—sometimes described as a "social security number"—can be used to pinpoint the computer used. Naturally, a dynamic address is more desirable for concealment, just as a person who does not want a telephone call traced to his or her home may place the call from a payphone. Even so, the dynamic IP address can usually be traced to a network. In any case, dynamic addresses are likely to disappear from the scene, due to the adoption of a 128-bit Internet protocol, IPv6. Together with allocation technology known as supernetting or CIDR (Classless Inter-Domain Routing), IPv6 will make it possible to assign every computer a static IP address.



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