What is the Internet Protocol (IP)?
The Internet Protocol (IP) is a protocol, or set of rules, for routing and addressing packets of data so that they can travel across networks and arrive at the correct destination. Data traversing the Internet is divided into smaller pieces, called packets. IP information is attached to each packet, and this information helps routers to send packets to the right place. Every device or domain that connects to the Internet is assigned an IP address, and as packets are directed to the IP address attached to them, data arrives where it is needed.
Once the packets arrive at their destination, they are handled differently depending on which transport protocol is used in combination with IP. The most common transport protocols are TCP and UDP.
What is a network protocol?
In networking, a protocol is a standardized way of doing certain actions and formatting data so that two or more devices are able to communicate with and understand each other.
To understand why protocols are necessary, consider the process of mailing a letter. On the envelope, addresses are written in the following order: name, street address, city, state, and zip code. If an envelope is dropped into a mailbox with the zip code written first, followed by the street address, followed by the state, and so on, the post office won't deliver it. There is an agreed-upon protocol for writing addresses in order for the postal system to work. In the same way, all IP data packets must present certain information in a certain order, and all IP addresses follow a standardized format.
What is an IP address? How does IP addressing work?
An IP address is a unique identifier assigned to a device or domain that connects to the Internet. Each IP address is a series of characters, such as '192.168.1.1'. Via DNS resolvers, which translate human-readable domain names into IP addresses, users are able to access websites without memorizing this complex series of characters. Each IP packet will contain both the IP address of the device or domain sending the packet and the IP address of the intended recipient, much like how both the destination address and the return address are included on a piece of mail.