188.8.131.52/24is a more concise notation for (a commonly used subset of) netmasks.
A prefix length contains less information - it can only represent netmasks that consist of a sequence of 1 bits, followed by 0 bits to the end. For example, /24 is
11111111111111111111111100000000(24 1s and then 32-24=8 0s)
This is useful because thats how most people use netmasks.
But there's a set of netmasks that aren't representable this way - for example
Did anyone ever use netmasks that weren't prefix-length-representable? Apparently yes:
Addresses were allocated from these networks sequentially, and the oldest
web sites tended to get the most traffic, so a straightforward setup that
spread the six /18s across the reverse proxies didn't balance the load
particularly well. I toyed with using 0xffff0003 netmasks to split the /16
so that successive addresses could be routed to each of the four London
reverse proxies in turn.
This worked in testing but I didn't deploy it because it broke my
colleagues' brains and non-contiguous netmasks were an unsupported