IP Addresses: What is Thier Purpose?
By Charles Hopkins
Published 11/28/2007 | Internet
An IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a unique number that is
assigned to each computer or other electronic device that is connected
to the Internet. The express purpose of an IP address is to identify
each individual machine that is online. It can be compared to a street
address or phone number. Particular electronic devices use these unique
numbers to communicate with each other through a network. The typical
IP address is configured in this manner: 127.72.16.137.
Thanks to IP addresses, your computer can be easily identified in
particular situations. For example, most Internet Service Providers
(ISPs) have a database in which they store each of their client's IP
This practice, however, begs the question: If your IP address can
be identified? how is your privacy protected? Do ISPs infringe on your
personal rights and invade your privacy in this manner? There are many
who regard it as an invasion of privacy, and thus consider the use of
IP addresses to identify individual computers is morally and
On the other hand, IP addresses qualify as a necessary evil because
not only do they identify each unique computer, but can also track
certain activities that are being carried out on the internet. In this
sense, they help prevent or even stop incidences of cyber-crime.
The spread of computer viruses is a case in point. They present an
increasingly large problem to the internet community. These viruses can
and do inflict irreversible damage to computer systems, and ruin hard
drives on which important data has been stored. Through the use of IP
addresses, the origin of a given computer virus can be easily tracked
and the person who wrote and released the virus script can be brought
Another useful use to which IP addresses are put is in the creation
and use of wikis. These are websites that can be directly changed or
edited by anyone. Wikipedia is the most popular of the existing wikis.
Without the use of IP addresses, wikis would never exist. Given the
fact that anyone can delete or edit an article on a wiki, vandalism
would otherwise be a huge problem. However, by tracking made possible
by IP addresses, a wiki administrator can block a certain IP address
from accessing and editing any material on the wiki.
IP addresses have become an essential tool for the operation and
security of today's Internet community. They provide a means of
identification among computer users, and a means by which to track
events and incidences that occur on online networks. We sacrifice a
measure of anonymity for the security that IP addresses afford us.