IP address

Early network design, when global end-to-end connectivity was envisioned for communications with all Internet hosts, intended that IP addresses be globally unique. However, it was found that this was not always necessary as private networks developed and public address space needed to be conserved.

The large number of IPv6 addresses allows large blocks to be assigned for specific purposes and, where appropriate, to be aggregated for efficient routing. With a large address space, there is no need to have complex address conservation methods as used in CIDR.

Private and link-local address prefixes may not be routed on the public Internet.

Dynamic IP addresses are assigned by network using Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). DHCP is the most frequently used technology for assigning addresses. It avoids the administrative burden of assigning specific static addresses to each device on a network. It also allows devices to share the limited address space on a network if only some of them are online at a particular time. Typically, dynamic IP configuration is enabled by default in modern desktop operating systems.

Computers and equipment used for the network infrastructure, such as routers and mail servers, are typically configured with static addressing.

In the absence or failure of static or dynamic address configurations, an operating system may assign a link-local address to a host using stateless address autoconfiguration.

IP addresses are classified into several classes of operational characteristics: unicast, multicast, anycast and broadcast addressing.

The most common concept of an IP address is in unicast addressing, available in both IPv4 and IPv6. It normally refers to a single sender or a single receiver, and can be used for both sending and receiving. Usually, a unicast address is associated with a single device or host, but a device or host may have more than one unicast address. Sending the same data to multiple unicast addresses requires the sender to send all the data many times over, once for each recipient.

IPv6 does not implement broadcast addressing and replaces it with multicast to the specially defined all-nodes multicast address.