Definition under: Definitions

What is Internet Protocol (IP)?

Internet Protocol (IP) is a set of rules that govern the transmission of data packets over the Internet. It provides a unique identifier for each device connected to the Internet, which is known as an IP address. IP is responsible for routing data packets between devices across different networks, using a process known as packet switching.

The IP protocol is connectionless, which means that data packets are transmitted independently of one another and may take different routes to reach their destination. IP is a fundamental protocol of the Internet and is used in conjunction with other protocols, such as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), to provide reliable data transmission. Together, IP and TCP form the backbone of the Internet and allow for the transmission of large amounts of data across vast distances.

Dissecting Internet Protocol (IP)

It was first developed in the 1970s by the United States Department of Defense (DoD), which was the precursor to the modern internet. The purpose of IP was to provide a standardized method for routing data packets between different devices on the network. It was designed to be a simple, flexible protocol that could be used by a wide range of devices and operating systems.

The first version of IP, known as IPv4, was released in 1981 and quickly became the dominant protocol for internet communication. It uses a 32-bit address scheme, which allows for approximately 4 billion unique addresses.

As the internet grew in popularity, it became clear that the limited number of IPv4 addresses would eventually be exhausted. In response, a new version of the protocol, IPv6, was developed in the 1990s. IPv6 uses a 128-bit address scheme, which provides for an almost limitless number of unique addresses.

Key Components of Internet Protocol (IP)

Internet Protocol (IP) is a widely-used communications protocol that provides a standard method for sending and receiving data over the internet or any other packet-switched network. These are the key components of IP that are essential for its proper functioning:

  • Transport protocols: IP is a network-layer protocol, which means it only provides the basic mechanism for transmitting packets between devices. To enable reliable data transfer, transport-layer protocols such as TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) are typically used in conjunction with IP.
  • IP Address: Every device connected to an IP network has a unique IP address, which is a numerical identifier assigned to that device. IP addresses are typically represented as a series of four numbers separated by periods (e.g.,
  • Packet format: IP breaks down data into small, discrete units called packets that can be transmitted across the network. Each packet contains a header and a payload. The header contains information such as the source and destination IP addresses, while the payload contains the actual data being transmitted.
  • Fragmentation and reassembly: IP allows data to be fragmented into smaller packets for more efficient transmission across the network. It also provides a mechanism for reassembling those packets into the original data when they reach their destination.
  • Versions: There are two versions of IP in use today: IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and is still the most widely used version, while IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and is designed to provide greater address space and improved security.

Some components of Internet Protocol are specialized and not necessary for basic communication. Examples of these specialized components that are available in IP include Quality of Service (QoS) and Multicast.

Function of Internet Protocol (IP)

The Internet Protocol is responsible for managing various tasks related to data communication across multiple IP networks. It addresses host interfaces, encapsulates data into datagrams, and routes them from a source to a destination host interface. The protocol defines the packet format and an addressing system that includes the source and destination IP addresses along with other metadata required to route and deliver the datagram. The datagram comprises of two components: 


  • Includes source IP address, destination IP address, and other metadata needed to route and deliver the datagram.
  • Provides information about how the packet should be handled by the network.
  • Contains control information that is used to manage the data transmission process.


  • Contains the actual data being transported.
  • Can be any type of data, such as a text document, image, or video file.
  • Can be fragmented into smaller packets for efficient transmission across the network.
  • Can be encrypted or compressed for security or efficiency purposes.

Enclosing data payload in a packet with a header is known as encapsulation.

To provide a unique numerical identity to devices connected to a computer network using the Internet Protocol (IP), the process of IP addressing is employed, which involves a number of steps.

  1. Assigning IP addresses and relevant parameters to host interfaces: This step involves assigning a unique IP address to each device on a network, as well as other relevant parameters such as subnet mask, default gateway, and DNS server.
  2. Dividing the address space into subnetworks: This step involves dividing the available IP address space into smaller subnetworks to optimize network performance and manageability.
  3. Designating network prefixes for each subnetwork: Each subnetwork is assigned a network prefix, which is used to identify the network portion of an IP address.
  4. Performing IP routing to transport packets across network boundaries: This step involves using routing protocols to determine the best path for data to travel across different networks or subnetworks.
  5. Communicating with other routers using routing protocols that are either interior or exterior gateway protocols, depending on the network topology.

Recently Added Definitions