The digital object identifier [DOI®] system provides an infrastructure for the persistent unique identification of objects of any type.
DOI is an acronym for “digital object identifier,” meaning a “digital identifier of an object” rather than an “identifier of a digital object.” The International DOI Foundation initiated the DOI system in 1998, and it was initially developed with the collaboration of some participants in ISO/TC46/SC9. Due to its application in the fields of information and documentation and previous collaboration with some ISO/TC46/SC9 participants, it was introduced as a possible work item in 2004 and further developed from 2006 to 2010.
The DOI system is designed to work over the Internet. A DOI name is permanently assigned to an object to provide a resolvable persistent network link to current information about that object, including where the object, or information about it, can be found on the Internet. While information about an object can change over time, its DOI name will not change. A DOI name can be resolved within the DOI system to values of one or more data types relating to the object identified by that DOI name, such as a URL, an e-mail address, other identifiers, and descriptive metadata.
The DOI system enables the construction of automated services and transactions. Applications of the DOI system include but are not limited to managing information and documentation location and access, managing metadata, facilitating electronic transactions, persistent unique identification of any form of any data, and commercial and non-commercial transactions.
The content of an object associated with a DOI name is described unambiguously by DOI metadata, based on a structured extensible data model that enables the object to be associated with metadata of any desired degree of precision and granularity to support description and services. The data model supports interoperability between DOI applications.
The scope of the DOI system is not defined by reference to the type of content (format, etc.) of the referent but by reference to the functionalities it provides and the context of use. The DOI system provides, within networks of DOI applications, unique identification, persistence, resolution, metadata, and semantic interoperability.
—Adapted from the Handbook of the International DOI Foundation.