Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

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In the Internet Protocol Version 4, the address is a non-routable meta-address used to designate an invalid, unknown or non-applicable target. To give a special meaning to an otherwise invalid piece of data is an application of in-band signaling.

In the context of servers, means "all IPv4 addresses on the local machine". If a host has two IP addresses, and, and a server running on the host listens on, it will be reachable at both of those IPs.

In the context of routing, usually means the default route, i.e. the route which leads to "the rest of" the internet instead of somewhere on the local network.

Uses include:

  • The address a host claims as its own when it has not yet been assigned an address. Such as when sending the initial DHCPDISCOVER packet when using DHCP.
  • The address a host assigns to itself when address request via DHCP has failed, provided the host's IP stack supports this. This usage has been replaced with the APIPA mechanism in modern operating systems.
  • A way to specify "any IPv4-host at all". It is used in this way when specifying a default route.
  • A way to explicitly specify that the target is unavailable.
  • A way to specify "any IPv4 address at all". It is used in this way when configuring servers (i.e. when binding listening sockets). This is known to TCP programmers as INADDR_ANY. (bind(2) binds to addresses, not interfaces.)
  • In IPv6, the all-zeros address is typically represented by "::".

    References Wikipedia