An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing. Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) defines an IP address as a 32-bit number. However, because of the growth of the Internet and the depletion of available IPv4 addresses, a new version of IP (IPv6), using 128 bits for the IP address, was developed in 1995, and standardized in December 1998. In July 2017, a final definition of the protocol was published. IPv6 deployment has been ongoing since the mid-2000s.
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IP addresses are usually written and displayed in human-readable notations, such as 172.16.254.1 in IPv4, and 2001:cd6:0:1764:0:973:3:7 in IPv6. The size of the routing prefix of the address is designated in CIDR notation by suffixing the address with the number of significant bits, e.g., 192.168.1.15/24, which is equivalent to the historically used subnet mask 255.255.255.0.