NISO Announces New URI Scheme for Information Resources

NISO-Sponsored INFO URI Scheme is Information Gateway to the Web

Bethesda, Md., USA (January 14, 2004) - Working under the auspices of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), a joint task force of the publishing and library communities has developed and published a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) scheme aimed at the identification of information assets. Information assets should be interpreted rather broadly to include, for example, documents and terms from classification schemes. The INFO URI scheme is a consistent and reliable way to represent and reference such standard identifiers as Dewey Decimal Classifications on the Web so that these identifiers can be "read" and understood by Web applications. Led by four NISO members and associates -- Los Alamos National Laboratory, Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), Elsevier, and Manifest Solutions -- the initiative builds on earlier consultations with representatives from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). An Internet-Draft for the INFO URI scheme was first published Sept. 25th, 2003 and a revision published Dec. 5th, 2003 (see*
Herbert Van de Sompel, Digital Library Research & Prototyping at the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Research Library, stated, "A good example of the problem that the INFO URI scheme solves involves PubMed identifiers: unique numbers assigned to records in the PubMed database maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the National Library of Medicine. PubMed identifiers originated prior to the Web, so they are not URIs. As such they do not exist naturally in the Web infrastructure because the Web only recognizes URIs as a means to identify information resources. So Web applications cannot use PubMed identifiers, and hence cannot reference PubMed records that are identified by them. The solution is to turn PubMed identifiers into URIs. The INFO Registry enables the registration of public namespaces of standard identifiers; NCBI registered its PubMed identifier namespace under the INFO Registry -- their namespace is pmid -- so we can now talk about the record with the PubMed identifier '12376099' in URI terms as info:pmid/12376099."

"The goal of INFO is to act as a bridging mechanism to the Web by providing a lightweight means for registering public namespaces used for the identification of information assets," said Tony Hammond, Advanced Technology Group at Elsevier, a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. "We see INFO as an enabling technology for the library, publishing and media communities -- a way to facilitate and speed the growth of the Web as a truly global information place beyond a basic document repository. The Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, and NASA are among those organizations that have already registered public namespaces with the INFO Registry."

"There are different ways to represent these identifiers on the Web," explained Pat Harris, NISO's Executive Director, "but the INFO URI scheme really simplifies matters. As a Web user, you aren't likely to see the scheme in action on your screen -- for example, info:lccn/2002022641, because it's an under-the-hood way of communicating the identity of an information asset to a Web application."

The INFO Registry is now available online at for receiving new registrations. This Registry contains all the information needed by Web applications to make use of INFO namespaces. Each Registry entry defines the namespace, the syntax, and normalization rules for the representing INFO identifiers as URIs, and gives full contact information for the namespace authority for that entry. Moreover, the INFO Registry is readable by both humans and machines alike.

For more information about the INFO URI scheme, see the FAQ at

About NISO

NISO, a non-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), identifies, develops, maintains, and publishes technical standards to manage information in our changing and ever-more digital environment. NISO standards apply both traditional and new technologies to the full range of information-related needs, including retrieval, re-purposing, storage, metadata, and preservation. NISO Standards, information about NISO's activities and membership are featured on the NISO website

*Both Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) and Uniform Resource Names (URNs) are types of URIs. While URLs are locators, or addresses, on the Web, URNs are names on the Web. The INFO URI scheme is a special type of URN which complements regular URNs but is designed to be simpler and more convenient both to manage and to use.