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Internet Protocol (IP) is the method or the set of rules governing the transmission of data packets between different devices via the Internet. IP is the layer 3 protocol in the OSI networking model. IP makes it possible for devices, working on different platforms, to communicate through the Internet. A unique IP address is assigned to each device on the network that makes it possible to send and receive data. Each computer system or devices such as a printer and mobile phone is known as the ‘host’ on the Internet and hold at least one IP address.

When data is transferred through the Internet, it is first divided into different parts known as packets. Each data pack contains the senders and receivers address. The data pack is first sent to a gateway computer, which serves as an entrance to a different network and redirects the data packets to a new gateway computer which again redirects to a different gateway computer until the original destination is identified by one of the computers. After identifying the accurate destination from the address, the data is forwarded directly to that particular computer. Since the data is divided into numerous packets, they can be transmitted via different nodes across the Internet. The IP collects all the data packets and allows Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)—a layer 4 protocol—to rearrange them in the right order. Each individual data packet travels independently across the Internet and are treated as a unique data pack without connecting it to another data pack.

Different versions of Internet Protocol

Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is considered to be the fourth version of the Internet protocol which is considered to be one of the central protocols of standards-based internetworking types on the Internet. It is the most widely used version and defines an IP address in the 32-bits format. When the number of systems rapidly increased, the addresses became insufficient to meet the needs. A new system to address this challenge came into being which is termed as Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6). Though IPv4 is on the process of being replaced by its successor, it is still in use.

IPv6 also called as -Internet Protocol next generation or simply (IPng) is a 128-bit internet protocol system which is considered to increase the number of IP addresses exponentially. The addresses display hexadecimal digits which are divided into eight groups which are separated by colons.

Apart from these two Internet protocols, IPv5 was introduced as an experimental address system used primarily for data streaming. However, due to its inefficiency, IPv5 was abandoned before becoming a standard. IPv5 was replaced by IPv6 which was much more advanced and efficient. 

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