An Internet Protocol address
) is usually a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network
that uses the Internet Protocol
An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification
and location addressing
. Its role has been characterized as follows: "A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A route indicates how to get there.
The designers of the Internet Protocol defined an IP address as a 32-bit
and this system, known as Internet Protocol Version 4
(IPv4), is still in use today. However, due to the enormous growth of the Internet
and the predicted depletion of available addresses
, a new addressing system (IPv6
), using 128 bits for the address, was developed in 1995,
standardized as RFC 2460
and is being deployed worldwide since the mid-2000s.
IP addresses are binary numbers
, but they are usually stored in text files and displayed in human-readable
notations, such as 172.16.254.1 (for IPv4
), and 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 (for IPv6
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
(IANA) manages the IP address space allocations globally and delegates five regional Internet registries
(RIRs) to allocate IP address blocks to local Internet registries
(Internet service providers
) and other entities.