Four levels of addresses are used in an internet employing the TCP/IP protocols: physical (link) addresses, logical (IP) addresses, port addresses, and specific addresses.
Each address is related to a specific layer in the TCP/IP architecture.
a. Physical Addresses:
The physical address, also known as the link address, is the address of a node as defined by its LAN or WAN. It is included in the frame used by the data link layer. It is the lowest-level address.
The physical addresses have authority over the network (LAN or WAN). The size and format of these addresses vary depending on the network. For example, Ethernet uses a 6-byte (48-bit) physical address that is imprinted on the network interface card (NIC). LocalTalk (Apple), however, has a I-byte dynamic address that changes each time the station comes up.
b. Logical Addresses
Logical addresses are necessary for universal communications that are independent of underlying physical networks. Physical addresses are not adequate in an internetwork environment where different networks can have different address formats. A universal addressing system is needed in which each host can be identified uniquely, regardless of the underlying physical network.
The logical addresses are designed for this purpose. A logical address in the Internet is currently a 32-bit address that can uniquely define a host connected to the Internet.
c. Port Addresses:
The IP address and the physical address are necessary for a quantity of data to travel from a source to the destination host. However, arrival at the destination host is not the final objective of data communications on the Internet. A system that sends nothing but data from one computer to another is not complete. Today, computers are devices that can run multiple processes at the same time. The end objective of Internet communication is a process communicating with another process. For example, computer A can communicate with computer C by using TELNET. At the same time, computer A communicates with computer B by using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). For these processes to receive data simultaneously, we need a method to label the different processes. In other words, they need addresses. In the TCP/IP architecture, the label assigned to a process is called a port address. A port address in TCP/IP is 16 bits in length.
d. Specific Addresses:
Some applications have user-friendly addresses that are designed for that specific address.
Examples include the e-mail address and the Universal Resource Locator (URL). The first defines the recipient of an e-mail; the second is used to find a document on the World Wide Web. These addresses, however, get changed to the corresponding port and logical addresses by the sending computer.