IP Addresses

Explained by Common Craft
At the very heart of the web are a set of rules or “protocols” that let us send and receive information. By understanding Internet Protocol Addresses or IP Addresses, we can see how information is requested and delivered on the web.
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Video Transcript:

With a computer or device, we can connect to billions of websites, apps and devices anywhere in the world with the click of a button.  

It works because, behind the scenes, everything on the internet uses the same set of rules that is known as a protocol. By understanding the basics of the protocol, we can see what makes the internet work.

Think about it like this… You can send a letter to almost anyone in the world if you know a few basic things, like their house number, street, and city. And because you also have an address, they can write back. That’s because most of the world uses the same rules for physical addresses. This is a kind of protocol.

The internet is no different. Instead of houses, the internet has billions of computers and devices. For information to get from one device to another using the internet, the device needs it’s own address. This is not a physical address, but an Internet Protocol address, or IP address.  IP addresses, like physical ones, link the whole network together.

This means that everything on the Internet has an IP address that looks like this or this. When you connect to the internet, an IP address is assigned to your computer or device by your Internet Service Provider, thanks to software that’s built in to the device.

It’s this IP software, like mail in real life, that helps define the destination for your message and the return address.

For example, when you want to view a website, that website actually lives on a computer on the internet.  That website and your computer both have IP addresses. The website’s computer and your computer both have IP addresses. When you click the link, the protocol sends a request for the web page using an IP address and the web page is delivered to your IP address.

It’s this request-and-deliver process that makes the web work, and at its heart are billions and billions of IP addresses.  

In fact, the original protocol design allowed for about 4 billion addresses, and we nearly ran out. Today, a new protocol is in place that allows for nearly unlimited addresses. Well, there’s actually a number.

That’s a lot IP addresses for use in the future. So, even if the number of computers, devices and websites grows exponentially in the future, we’ll still have all the IP addresses we need to connect every one of them through the internet.


What it teaches:

Without IP addresses the internet could not function. They are essential. Unfortunately, because IP addresses are often hidden from view, we rarely hear or learn about them. This video reveals the powerful role they play on the web through a useful analogy involving traditional mail. It teaches:

  • Why rules or “protocols” are important in the basic functions of the web

  • Why traditional mailing addresses are an example of a protocol

  • How IP addresses are used to request and receive information on the web
  • Why there are two versions of IP addresses

Video Info:

  • Duration:  02m 34s
  • Captions Available:  YES
  • Lesson Plan:  YES
  • Category:  Technology
  • ISTE Standard:  Empowered Learner, Indicator 1d

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