What does IPv4 mean?

Something as massive as the Internet needs a way of control, some not to be driven by chaos. Just think about the number of devices that demand connection every second worldwide. In origin, developers perhaps didn’t imagine the Internet would grow as fast and big as it is going. But they definitely thought big, so they calculated ways to keep the order. So different rules and protocols were created, like the Internet protocol (IP).

To fully understand the meaning of IPv4, we have to review some concepts. Let’s get started!

IP definition

The IP or the Internet protocol is a group of rules for online communications. It rules the format of data packets, the most convenient structure for data to be transported across networks. It’s also in charge of routing and addressing data packets delivered to their destination using the IP addresses. 

IP address definition

An IP address allows the Internet to identify devices participating in each communication. It’s an identifier of most of the components (servers, routers, domains, computers, smartphones, IoT devices, etc.) included within a network.

The main point is that the Internet must know who is talking, who requests information, and whom to answer. This is the reason for assigning a unique IP address to every device that requests a connection. 

Through the use of IP addresses, you can locate machines in the network and make them accessible for communicating and exchanging information. 

What does IPv4 mean?

Now we can put all the pieces together. IPv4 means Internet Protocol version 4. It’s the original version of the IP. It was a consequence of the TCP/IP improvement. SATNET, the early satellite network that shaped an initial segment of the Internet, used it for the first time in 1982. One year later, it was officially adopted by ARPANET, the Internet’s ancestor. 

The IPv4 structure involves 4 numbers between 0 and 254 divided by dots. It’s a four-byte (32-bit address space) long address. It was meant to cover the demand for connection of 4.3 billion computers. IPv4 example:

It’s described as a connection-less protocol, and that is because communication (exchange of messages) can start without prior arrangement between two endpoints on a network. In other words, a device can send information to a recipient without verifying if it’s available for establishing the communication or if it’s able to receive the information.

IPv4 duties are defining the format, communicating, addressing, and routing. That’s it! It’s not responsible for several tasks like protecting data integrity, securing the order, assuring the correct delivery, or avoiding duplicate delivery. No doubt these are critical tasks but, to accomplish them, it must be combined or complemented with a different protocol, for instance, the transmission control protocol or TCP.

Due to these features, IPv4 became a crucial tool for networks and the transmission of data they constantly do. Its use ensures data packets format will be checked. In case they are too big, they will be chopped into smaller pieces for faster and easier transmission. Communication will go on, and data packets will be addressed and routed to jump from an Internet module to the next and so on until they arrive at their destination. 


IPv4 has evolved through time and kept a great reputation. But even it’s still highly demanded, there is a shortage of this resource since a long time ago. Devices demanding connection are more every day, and IPv4 is already not enough. Sooner than later, we will have to migrate to the newest protocol version.

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