What is IPv4?

IPv4, or Internet Protocol version 4, is the fourth version of the Internet Protocol (IP) that is used to identify and locate devices on a network. It is the foundational protocol that has been used to route data packets across the Internet since its inception.

Key features of IPv4 include:

  1. 32-Bit Addressing: IPv4 addresses are 32 bits in length, allowing for approximately 4.3 billion unique addresses. Each address consists of four octets (8 bits each) separated by periods (e.g., 192.168.0.1).
  2. Hierarchical Addressing: IPv4 addresses are structured hierarchically, with portions of the address used to identify the network and the remaining portions used to identify individual devices on the network. This hierarchical structure allows for efficient routing of data packets across the Internet.
  3. Connectionless Protocol: IPv4 is a connectionless protocol, meaning that data packets are transmitted independently of each other. Each packet is treated as a separate unit and can follow different paths to reach their destination.
  4. Packet Switching: IPv4 relies on packet switching to route data packets between devices on a network. Data packets are broken down into smaller units called packets, which are then transmitted individually and reassembled at their destination.
  5. Protocol Stack: IPv4 is part of the TCP/IP protocol stack, which includes other protocols such as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP). These protocols work together to facilitate communication between devices on a network.

Despite its widespread adoption, IPv4 has limitations, primarily due to the finite number of available addresses. With the exponential growth of Internet-connected devices, IPv4 address exhaustion has become a significant issue. To address this limitation, IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) was developed, which uses a larger address space (128 bits) and provides a vastly expanded number of available addresses compared to IPv4. However, IPv4 continues to be widely used alongside IPv6 in many networks and systems.

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