Wildcard Mask

What Does Wildcard Mask Mean?

A wildcard mask is a sequence of binary bits which helps in streamlining the routing of packets within a subnet of a network. It is shown over the subnet number, providing the router information about which parts of the subnet number to focus on. The use of the wildcard mark helps the router to only focus on the digits chosen by the mask rather than on the entire IP address. Wildcard masks are normally used to specify which IP addresses can be allowed or denied in the access control lists and with router protocols like the Open Shortest Path First.


Techopedia Explains Wildcard Mask

A wildcard mask is similar to a subnet mask in bit length, as it is 32 bits long. However, it acts as an inverted subnet. Any wildcard bit pattern is capable of being masked for verification. In a network, the subnet number performs the task of helping a routing a packet to its final destination, once it has reached the main gateway. A binary zero over a specific digit in the subnet number requests a focus on the digit, whereas a binary one over a specific digit in the subnet number signals to ignore the specific digit. With wildcard masks, the zero bits specify the corresponding bit position must match the same bit position in the IP address, whereas the one bits specify that the corresponding bit position need not match the bit position in the IP address.

Wildcard masks help in specifying the range of network addresses to be used. They are largely used in circumstances where subnet masks cannot be used, such as when two affected hosts are under different subnets where the wildcard mask can be used to group them together.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.