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A digital object identifier (DOI) is a system used to identify a content object in a digital environment such as the Internet. DOIs are used to reduce the search time for public documents as well as for managing content, its meta data and to faciliate linking.
A DOI is a permanent, electronic referencing technology that is attached to documents or articles for as long as they remain on the Internet. It takes the form of an alphanumeric identifier and consists of suffixes and prefixes separated by a slash. All DOIs start with the number 10. URLs may also be contained in the character strings of DOIs. The strings contain numbers associated with the organization publishing the content.
Digital object identifiers are useful when individuals want to quickly find electronically published articles or documents. Note that DOIs can also be utilized in conjunction with printed materials. In other words, the content object itself does necessarily need to be digital.
DOIs are often located on the upper right hand corner of articles in academic journals, and in fact the majority of DOIs registered are done for educational articles
The primary advantage of a DOI is that it is permanent. If the location of a document changes, the meta data needs to updated, but the DOI itself does not. The dowside, at least according to critics, is that the DOI system is not open and is controlled by the International DOI Foundation.
It is estimated that as of 2011 there are well over 43 million DOI names created by 4000 organizations. These numbers are constantly growing as DOI usage becomes a viable form of expediting academic and personal information gathering activities on the Internet.