The digital object identifier system

Thursday 24 June 2004This is 19 years old. Be careful.

I stumbled upon the Digital Object Identifier system, and I feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into some sort of parallel universe. It’s an elaborate scheme for “identifying and exchanging intellectual property in the digital environment”. There are RFCs, an extensive handbook, and an active organization.

The idea seems to be a URN implementation. For example, the handbook is doi:10.1000/186, though browsers don’t recognize the doi: URI scheme, so there’s a web implementation: It reminds me of, though to solve a different problem.

Is this going to be a real thing to know about, or is it one of those Library Science specialties that doesn’t much get out into the real world?


The best-known implementation of DOI is CrossRef. DOI hasn't caught on in the rest of the world as its proponents had hoped.

I suspect from this post that you know as much about DOI as you need to for now.
The DOI system sucks. Imagine if you had to pay for every link you made. It's an elaborate scam by publishers to maintain their gated garden of content. I doubt it will ever reach widespread use.
Sorry, I don't agree with the "DOI system sucks" link. From the end-user perspective the DOI and CrossRef are great. If you are involved in research, using a DOI is incredible time saver. Before DOIs became common in science publishing, it was really difficult to find articles mentioned in references. Now, many sites add DOI links to references in the HTML version of online articles. To get to the article, you simply click on its DOI link. Almost every science publisher is registering DOIs for their articles. And they seem to be sharing the DOI information, which makes DOI very universal. In addition, CrossRef allows end-users to search their DOI database for free. You simply need to enter some known article metadata into their search engine to get a link to that article.

Add a comment:

Ignore this:
Leave this empty:
Name is required. Either email or web are required. Email won't be displayed and I won't spam you. Your web site won't be indexed by search engines.
Don't put anything here:
Leave this empty:
Comment text is Markdown.