When North Korea's connection to the global Internet stopped working last month, one particularly eye-popping detail emerged. Despite being home to 25 million people, the Hermit Kingdom has barely more than a thousand Internet protocol addresses. IP addresses are a bit like Social Security numbers, used to identify every device — from laptops to mobile phones to gaming systems — connected to the Internet. How many exist per person around the planet paints a picture of just how unevenly the Internet is distributed today.

By Darla Cameron and Nancy Scola, Published: Jan. 7, 2015

How IP addresses are distributed

One or more IP address per person

About one IP address

Two to 36 IP addresses

Less than one IP address per person

Two to 10 people

11 to 50 people

51 to 24,440 people

IP addresses per person

Using IP addresses to judge the intensity of a population’s Internet experience is inexact. Some countries have an abundance of addresses because they claimed them early on, when there was thought to be an inexhaustible supply. North Korea, some researchers believe, might be tapping China’s pool of addresses. And none of the analysts we spoke with were able to explain why, exactly, the highest per-person numbers in the world are put up by the Vatican and the tourist destination Seychelles. But, says Geoff Huston, chief scientist at the Asia-Pacific Information Center, which distributes IP addresses in that part of the world, "the number of addresses per capita shows a lot about the degree to which a nation is capable of capitalizing on an information economy."

United States

Home to the Internet’s invention, the United States is the world’s only member of the “Billion IP Address Club.” It is also a strong performer per capita, with five available IP addresses per person.

South Korea

Highly wired South Korea has two IP addresses per person.

Russia

Russia, meanwhile, under-represents with just one-third of an IP address per person; perhaps relatedly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the Internet "a CIA project."

China

And China has one-quarter of an IP address for each of its 1.4 billion people.

North Korea

Meanwhile, with the fewest total IP addresses of any non-island nation, North Korea has one address for every 24,000 people.

North Korea has one IP address for every 24,000 people.

Note: These infographics represent only IPv4 addresses, the most widely-used IP address format on the Internet. They also indicate addresses that have been assigned to each country by one of the five regional IP-allocating authorities but aren't necessarily in use.
SOURCE: Iljitsch van Beijnum, a researcher in the Netherlands, compiled the IP address data.