An IP address involves something called Internet Protocol, which is better known by its common abbreviation, IP. Any device that connects to the Internet is given its own unique IP address, i.e. a computer or printer.
The IP address of a device depends on two criteria; identifying the network interface and its location. There are several different types of IP addresses, of which IPv4 is currently the most common type. Another and newer type of IP address, IPv6, involves private addresses as unique local addresses (ULA). Both these two types of IP address can be used together.
Management of an IP address is undertaken by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and Regional Internet Registries. The Registries are split into five regions to cover everywhere on Earth where the Internet can be accessed.
IP numbers are usually assigned in a hierarchical way. The IPv4 system was first introduced as long ago as 1983, and still consists of 32-bit numbers. The origins of IPv6 date back to 1999, and this a type of IP address that involves 128-bit numbers.
There are several ways that an IP address can be changed, depending on which operating system you use. Using recent versions of Windows you will need to locate your Network Connections and then the Networking tab. Changing your IP address using Mac involves going to System Preferences, then Network, and then Active Network Ports. Here, you will be able to deselect a port, and then reselect one. It should be remembered that if you manually try and change your IP address your ISP may block you from accessing the net.
As the Internet continues to attract more users, there are many less IPv4 addresses available than there were even a few years ago. If there are no more IPv4 numbers left to allocate there will be no impact on functionality for those numbers – if and when IPv6, or another type of IP, becomes more common.