With a computer or other connected device, we can connect to billions of websites, apps and devices anywhere in the world with the click of a button. It works because, behind the scenes, everything on the internet uses the same set of rules that is known as a protocol. By understanding the basics of the protocol, we can see what makes the internet work.

Understanding How Addresses Work

You can send a letter to almost anyone in the world if you know a few basic things, like their house number, street, and city. And because you also have an address, they can write you back. That’s because most of the world uses the same rules for physical addresses. This is a kind of protocol.

The internet is no different. Instead of houses, the internet has billions of computers and devices. For information to get from one device to another using the internet, the device needs it’s own address. This is not a physical address, but an Internet Protocol address, or IP address.  IP addresses, like physical ones, link the whole network together.

Without IP addresses the internet could not function. They are essential. Unfortunately, because IP addresses are often hidden from view, we rarely hear or learn about them.

This video from our friends at CommonCraft reveals the powerful role they play on the web through a useful analogy involving traditional mail. It teaches:

  • Why rules or “protocols” are important in the basic functions of the web
  • Why traditional mailing addresses are an example of a protocol
  • How IP addresses are used to request and receive information on the web
  • Why there are two versions of IP addresses