May 24, 2022

An Interview with Internet Pioneer Robert Kahn About Digital Object Architecture

A new Q&A style interview with Robert Kahn was recently published on the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) blog.

From the Blog Post/Interview:

Robert E Kahn is considered one of the key Internet pioneers. An engineer and computer scientist, who, along with Vint Cerf, invented the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), the fundamental communication protocols at the heart of the Internet.

His latest project is the Digital Object (DO) Architecture.A key feature of the DO Architecture is the unique persistent identifier associated with each digital object. Imagine a large document or blog post with a lot of embedded URLs. After a certain amount of time those URLs will most likely become non-operational. If you replace those URLs with unique persistent digital object identifiers then, if properly administered, the links will never be lost – because the identifier is now associated with a digital object rather than a port on a machine.

Here’s the opening question and answer from the interview.

Q. With DO Architecture were you trying to address current challenges or facilitate new ways of doing things or both?

Kahn: In the late 1980s, my colleague Vint Cerf and I perceived the need to move beyond the rather static methods being used to manage information in the Internet. This led to an effort which we called Knowbot programing, or more generally, mobile programing. We wrote a report – The Digital Library Project, Vol. 1:  The World of Knowbots (March 1988) – that describes the basic components of an open architecture for a digital library system and a plan for its development. Certain information management aspects of this effort, in particular the identifier/resolution component, were later developed to become the basis for the Digital Object (DO) Architecture, an overview of which is available here.

Read the Complete Interview

Additional Resources

Framework for discovery of identity management information ( X.1255) Info

X.1255 Approved (via ITU Blog)

Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI)

About the Handle System

Current Applications of the Handle System (incl. DOI System)

DOI is Now Recognized as International Standard (ISO 26324:2012) (May 11, 2012)


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.