Upcoming changes to the ARK specification

Since 2019 the ARK Alliance (then known as ARKs-in-the-Open) has been reviewing the ARK specification (“spec”) in light of the ARK Experts Day recommendations coming from the 2018 ARK Summit in Paris. Accordingly, the latest ARK spec contains minor changes, all of which are backwards compatible and therefore won’t disrupt the functioning of any previously published ARKs. The most visible change is that implementers will soon be encouraged to publish new ARKs with just “ark:” instead of “ark:/”. For example,

  • Old recommendation    https://n2t.net/ark:/12345/x9876
  • New recommendation  https://n2t.net/ark:12345/x9876

Either form will always be valid, but the new form will become recommended. Other small changes include better documentation of current terminology and increased flexibility in the way that the ARK Alliance registers new NAANs.

The overall impact should be minimal, mostly affecting implementations that currently need to validate externally produced ARKs. Note that some implementations, such as N2T.net and archive.org, already accept both new- and old-form ARKs. Starting immediately, it is safe for any organization to begin accepting both forms. Over the long term, organizations that deal with ARKs will be expected to accept both forms. Thus all previously published ARKs should always be fully supported.

The ARK Alliance’s Outreach and Technical Working Groups will develop a community plan to transition from the older 2013 ARK spec to the current 2022 ARK spec (if you are interested, here are the detailed differences).  When it is ready, the transition plan will be publicized via the usual ARK Alliance channels.

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