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Computer networking involves linking two or more computers or devices (such as mobile phones) together in order to exchange data. Networks may be physical (connected with wires and cables) or wireless (for example, connected by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi). The largest and best-known network today is the Internet, which links over 6.5 billion devices (and by some estimates, more

Computer networking involves linking two or more computers or devices (such as mobile phones) together in order to exchange data. Networks may be physical (connected with wires and cables) or wireless (for example, connected by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi). The largest and best-known network today is the Internet, which links over 6.5 billion devices (and by some estimates, considerably more). Computer networks are typically built around hubs, switches and routers. With hubs, all data received an any port is passed to all other ports. All devices linked to a hub are part of the same "collision domain", where messages will conflict or interfere with each other if they are transmitted at the same time. Switches learn the locations of IP addresses linked to each of their ports so they only need to transmit data on one port, meaning each pair of ports forms a separate collision domain. Routers are like switches in dividing networks into collision domains, but also create separate domains for broadcast messages, creating an additional level of separation between the two sides of the router. Typically, a router is required to link networks with the internet, while switches and hubs are used to create local networks and subnetworks. Each computer in a network is uniquely identified by a built-in media-access control (MAC) address, but for networking purposes, it is also assigned an IP address, which is used to identify computers on the internet. The standard IP (IPv4) address consists of four eight-digit binary numbers, but these are often reported as four 3-digit decimal numbers separated by dots - sometimes called 'dotted quad notation'. Due to the increasingly widespread use of the internet, and the rise in wireless internet-enabled devices, the demand for IPv4 addresses is growing beyond the number of addresses available. Therefore, devices are now frequently assigned separate local IP addresses, so that only one computer in a building needs to have a global IP address assigned to it. Also, a new protocol (IPv6) has been developed, offering a greatly expanded set of IP addresses, which are currently being used in parallel with IPv4 addresses.

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