The Internet seems to work almost magically from the perspective of a user. Beneath that deceiving simplicity lies a staggering array of technologies and protocols designed to facilitate the transfer of information from one computer to another. The most common phrase people hear associated with the Internet is an IP address.
The IP address usually takes the form of a series of four numbers. The truth is, since computers talk and “think” in binary form, the address is actually much longer. The four numbers are called octets because they have eight positions when viewed in binary form. Each position can be in one of two states: one or zero. This gives about two to the eighth power positions or 256 all total. Computed together, this means over 4.3 billion IP address combinations are currently possible. Some of these combinations are restricted to singular uses. For instance, the address 0.0.0.0 is the universal default network address, while 255.255.255.255 is used for broadcasting.
The different sizes of each octet allow each IP address to be assigned to a business, government, private individual or other entity. Each address is split into two parts: Net and Host. The first two octets form the Net part of the address and the last two form the Host. The Net section identifies the network the computer belongs to, while the Host section identifies the computer itself. Together, these two parts form the complete IP address, allowing any other entity online to locate the computer quickly and easily.
A complicated process called network address translation allows Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) to be translated into IP addresses. It makes no difference to the browser itself. Simply using HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and an IP address gets the user to the site he is trying to visit. He can also type in the actual URL address.