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The DONA Foundation is a non-profit organization established in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Handle System

The Handle System


The Handle System is a rapid-resolution, globally distributed system run by multiple groups that the public can use for resolving identifiers (handles). The Handle System is an implementation of the identifier/resolution component of the Digital Object Architecture.


The Handle System uses an implementation of the Digital Object Identifier Resolution Protocol (DO-IRP v3.0) and other internal protocols to enable such a globally distributed system to work efficiently. The Handle System is a trademarked service of the DONA Foundation and is the Identifier Resolution component of the Digital Object Architecture.


A key part of the Handle System is the GHR, which contains records of prefixes allotted to local handle service providers. A client that queries the GHR, will typically learn the network address(es) and certain relevant security information of the local handle services to query for the corresponding handle record.


The Handle System software comprises a server, which includes a client portion that may be used separately. The server software can be used to provide identifier/resolution services to user systems by organizations to whom prefixes have been allotted by an authorized administrator of the GHR. The client software can also be used by third-party software to resolve handles managed by one or more local handle services.

The Global Handle Registry (also known as the GHR) is operational on a multi-primary basis, starting December 09, 2015, under the overall administration of the DONA Foundation. To resolve prefix record information that the GHR manages, please visit the Global Handle Registry service.

The GHR is a distributed registry whose operation is managed collaboratively by the DONA Foundation and multiple organizations that are credentialed and authorized by DONA. Each of those credentialed organizations are referred to as MPAs (or Multi-Primary Administrators). A credential is a number, made known to the GHR by DONA and allotted to a given MPA. MPAs, in turn, are authorized to allot derived prefixes from their credential to themselves and to third parties. The MPA and these third parties can provide identifier and resolution services (aka local handle services) for handles under the derived prefixes allotted to them. The GHR specifically communicates to the client, upon request, the location and certain relevant security information of the local handle services that can process the handle that the client is interested in resolving.

The GHR was created by Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) in Reston, Virginia, USA, which operated it as the sole administrator from 1993 – 2015. In 2014, CNRI transferred responsibility for the GHR to DONA.

Each credentialed MPA operates its own GHR Services in accordance with the DONA Foundation Policies & Procedures for the GHR, and coordinates its GHR Services with other MPAs and DONA in the distributed operation of the GHR on a multi-primary basis. In providing its GHR Services, each MPA shares with each other MPA and DONA critical GHR structural information to assist users in locating the provider of a local handle service that can help to provide assistance in obtaining desired handle records, if such records exist. An MPA also interacts with individuals or organizations interested in being authorized to provide identifier and/or resolution services, i.e., local handle services, and allots one or more prefixes derived from the MPAs credential for this purpose (e.g., 35.1 or 35.1.ABC, where “35” is the credential allotted to an MPA by DONA).

A list of credentialed MPAs is here.