IGMP Guide: How IGMP Works?

If you're interested in networking, you've probably heard of IGMP. But what is IGMP, and what does it do?

This blog post will explain everything you need to know about IGMP. We'll cover what IGMP is, how it works, and why it's important.

By the end of this blog post, you'll have a better understanding of this essential networking protocol.

So, let's get started!

What Does IGMP Mean?

IGMP, or Internet Group Management Protocol, is a communication protocol used in IPv4 networks for multicast group management. It allows a host to inform its local router that it wants to receive messages for a specified multicast group. It also allows routers to identify which hosts on their network belong to specific multicast groups and ensure efficient delivery of multicast traffic.

In other words, IGMP helps improve the performance and efficiency of IPv4 multicast networks by managing hosts' membership in various multicast groups. Without IGMP, IPv4 networks would not be able to efficiently support multimedia streaming or other applications that require multicasting.


In networking, multicast refers to transmitting a single data package to multiple recipients using a specific IP address at once. This differs from unicast, which sends a separate package to each individual recipient, and broadcast, which sends the same package to all possible recipients on a network.

Multicast can be useful for efficiently sending large amounts of data to a selected group, such as streaming a video conference to multiple participants or updating software on multiple devices simultaneously. However, it does require that all receivers be members of the specified multicast group in order for the transmission to be successful.

Let's Explain How IGMP Works

Multicast IP addresses allow for a single package to be sent to multiple hosts at once, making it an efficient way of delivering information. However, in order for multicast to work, the host must first notify the multicast router that it wants to join a certain multicast group. This is where IGMP comes in.

The Internet Group Management Protocol manages these multicast groups and ensures that the multicast routers only send packages to those hosts who have requested them.

When a host wants to join a multicast group, it sends an IGMP membership report to its local router. The router then passes on this information to other routers in the network, allowing the host to receive multicast traffic for that group.

Similarly, when a host wants to leave a multicast group, it sends an IGMP leave report which is propagated throughout the network. This ensures that hosts only receive multicast traffic for groups they have specifically joined, thus conserving network resources.

In addition to managing membership, IGMP also periodically sends out IGMP query messages to gauge interest in certain groups and prune those with no active members.

Types of IGMP Messages

When managing membership in an Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) network, there are three types of messages that may be used. A membership query is sent by a multicast router to determine which hosts are members of a specific multicast group. A membership report is sent by a host to indicate its membership in a particular group.

Finally, a leave group message is sent by a host when it wishes to leave a multicast group. These messages allow for efficient management of membership in multicast groups and help ensure that messages are only sent to interested recipients.

Membership Query:

When certain devices on a network want to join a multicast group, they send an Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) membership query message. These messages come in two forms: general membership queries and group-specific membership queries. General membership queries are sent by routers to determine which devices on the network want to join any multicast groups.

Group-specific membership queries are used by routers to check if there are any members of a specific multicast group on the network. Both types of queries help routers maintain an efficient multicast system, ensuring that data is only sent to the devices that need it.

Membership Report:

As a component of Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP), a membership report is a message sent by a host to indicate its membership in a particular multicast group. This message allows routers on a network to accurately track which hosts are part of which multicast groups to efficiently route multicast traffic.

A membership report can take the form of an initial joining report or an active membership report, indicating that the host has just joined a group or is actively participating in it, respectively.

Leave Group Message:

A leave group message is sent from a host to a router when it wants to stop receiving multicast traffic for a certain group.

This type of message allows for efficient communication within a multicast network, as hosts that no longer wish to receive data for a particular group can easily notify the network.

This helps reduce unnecessary network traffic and improves overall network performance.

IGMP Types

The Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) is a communication protocol that manages the participation of hosts in multicast groups.

There are three types of IGMP: IGMP version 1, IGMP version 2, and IGMP version 3.

  • IGMP version 1 was the first iteration of the protocol, and it allows a host to signal its interest in joining a particular multicast group.
  • IGMP version 2 builds upon the functionality of version 1 by allowing hosts to indicate their desire to leave a multicast group.
  • IGMP version 3 adds the ability for a host to report its current Multicast Listener state, providing more efficient group membership reporting.

IGMP v2 vs. IGMP v3

As technology progresses, new versions of IGMP are released to address specific issues and enhance overall functionality.

IGMPv2, released in 1997, added the capability for a host to report leaving a group.

IGMPv3, released in 2004, introduces source-specific multicasting and allows for a more efficient way to manage group membership by allowing hosts to report their interest in specific sources within a multicast group. Additionally, IGMPv3 adds support for "compatible mode," which allows for interoperability with older versions of the protocol during an upgrade process.

Ultimately, both IGMPv2 and IGMPv3 serve the same purpose of managing multicast group membership, but IGMPv3 offers greater flexibility and efficiency.

IGMP Applications

One popular application of IGMP is internet television streaming. When watching a live broadcast or on-demand video, the streaming service will use IGMP to send the content only to those viewers currently tuned in, rather than transmitting it to every device on the network.

Another common use for IGMP is in online gaming. In order to communicate with fellow players and join multiplayer games, IGMP is used for managing membership in gaming groups and sharing information within those groups.

Finally, IGMP also has various office uses, such as sharing files among colleagues and holding virtual meetings via video conferencing software.

Overall, the capabilities offered by IGMP make it a valuable tool across a variety of industries and applications.

Final Words

IGMP is a critical protocol for networking. It allows devices on a network to communicate with one another and determine which multicast groups they should subscribe to.

By understanding how IGMP works, you can create smoother, more efficient networks that are better equipped to handle today's high-bandwidth applications and media streaming services.

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into IGMP, or need help setting up your own multicast network, check this course – we’d be happy to help!

Created by
Stanley Avery

I am a certified network engineer with over 10 years of experience in the field. I have a deep understanding of networking and IT security, and I am always looking for new challenges.

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