If different IP implementations are to be compatible, there must be a distinguished number to denote "all hosts".
Since the local network layer can always map an IP address into data link layer address, the choice of an IP "broadcast host number" is somewhat arbitrary. For simplicity, it should be one not likely to be assigned to a real host. The number whose bits are all ones has this property; this assignment was first proposed in . In the few cases where a host has been assigned an address with a host-number part of all ones, it does not seem onerous to require renumbering.
The address 255.255.255.255 denotes a broadcast on a local hardware network, which must not be forwarded. This address may be used, for example, by hosts that do not know their network number and are asking some server for it.
Thus, a host on net 36, for example, may:
(Note that unless the network has been broken up into subnets, these two methods have identical effects.)
If the use of "all ones" in a field of an IP address means "broadcast", using "all zeros" could be viewed as meaning "unspecified". There is probably no reason for such addresses to appear anywhere but as the source address of an ICMP Information Request datagram. However, as a notational convention, we refer to networks (as opposed to hosts) by using addresses with zero fields. For example, 126.96.36.199 means "network number 36" while 188.8.131.52 means "all hosts on network number 36".