An IP address ("Internet Protocol", commonly known as an IP) is a number which is an exclusive number all information technology devices including printers, routers, modems, et al. It is given to a computer upon accessing the Internet or a LAN.
IP addresses may be either static or dynamic. Static IP addresses do not change, while dynamic IP addresses do. Dynamic IP addresses are issued from a pool of IP addresses allocated by your ISP or DHCP Server. If a computer's dynamic IP address expires, the computer is assigned a new one.
IP addresses are often traced to service providers using WHOIS searches such as those provided by the five RIRs. WHOIS search results usually provide useful information for contacting the ISPs to report abuse.
IP version 4 is what's currently used by most network devices. However, with more and more computers accessing the internet, IPv4 addresses are running out quickly. Just like in a city, addresses have to be created for new neighborhoods but, if your neighborhood gets too large, you will have to come up with an entire new pool of addresses. IPv4 is limited to just 4,294,967,296 addresses. IP version 6 is the replacement for the aging IPv4. The estimated number of unique addresses for IPv6 is 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456.  With IPv6, the amount of possible IP addresses is increased exponentially, allowing for more exponential growth in the use of mobile phones, literally all of which nowadays have internet connectivity, computers, video game consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, tablet computers such as the iPad, and even computers found within modern automobiles. IPv6 can also justify for the future growth in world population of Planet Earth. IP address tracking plays a vital role in law enforcement, such as the track down and prosecution of hackers, child molesters, stalkers, and even potential terrorists. internet service providers also play a role in assisting law enforcement, although the downloading of copyrighted songs, movies, games, and programs is still not widely considered illegal by the general public or by law enforcement agencies as long as it is only for personal use.
IP address tracking tools have been used by stalkers and cyber criminals to pinpoint the physical location of their victims house based upon, for example, a Wikipedia article "edit history" page that reveals the IP address of an editor who did not log in with a registered username. Although in some instances, many IP addresses trace back to one location that contains a network hub owned by an internet service provider. This exact same technique can be used by the webmasters of major websites such as YouTube and Facebook to help law enforcement track down a suspected child molester or a troll who was reported for making threats.
- American Registry for Internet Numbers
- European Network Information Center
- Asia Pacific Network Information Center
- African Network Information Center
- Latin American/Carribean Network Information Center
- IP Address tracer