Digital object identifier

A DOI is a type of Handle System handle, which takes the form of a character string divided into two parts, a prefix and a suffix, separated by a slash.

The indecs Content Model as used within the DOI system associates metadata with objects. A small kernel of common metadata is shared by all DOI names and can be optionally extended with other relevant data, which may be public or restricted. Registrants may update the metadata for their DOI names at any time, such as when publication information changes or when an object moves to a different URL.

A DOI name does not depend on the object's location and, in this way, is similar to a Uniform Resource Name (URN) or PURL but differs from an ordinary URL. URLs are often used as substitute identifiers for documents on the Internet although the same document at two different locations has two URLs. By contrast, persistent identifiers such as DOI names identify objects as first class entities: two instances of the same object would have the same DOI name.

The IDF is controlled by a Board elected by the members of the Foundation, with an appointed Managing Agent who is responsible for co-ordinating and planning its activities. Membership is open to all organizations with an interest in electronic publishing and related enabling technologies. The IDF holds annual open meetings on the topics of DOI and related issues.

Registration agencies generally charge a fee to assign a new DOI name; parts of these fees are used to support the IDF. The DOI system overall, through the IDF, operates on a not-for-profit cost recovery basis.

The maintainers of the DOI system have deliberately not registered a DOI namespace for URNs, stating that: