Making Digital Artifacts on the Web Verifiable and Reliable

Tobias Kuhn*, Michel Dumontier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The current Web has no general mechanisms to make digital artifacts-such as datasets, code, texts, and imagesverifiable and permanent. For digital artifacts that are supposed to be immutable, there is moreover no commonly accepted method to enforce this immutability. These shortcomings have a serious negative impact on the ability to reproduce the results of processes that rely on Web resources, which in turn heavily impacts areas such as science where reproducibility is important. To solve this problem, we propose trusty URIs containing cryptographic hash values. We show how trusty URIs can be used for the verification of digital artifacts, in a manner that is independent of the serialization format in the case of structured data files such as nanopublications. We demonstrate how the contents of these files become immutable, including dependencies to external digital artifacts and thereby extending the range of verifiability to the entire reference tree. Our approach sticks to the core principles of the Web, namely openness and decentralized architecture, and is fully compatible with existing standards and protocols. Evaluation of our reference implementations shows that these design goals are indeed accomplished by our approach, and that it remains practical even for very large files.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2390-2400
JournalIeee Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Decentralized systems
  • data publishing
  • Semantic Web
  • linked data
  • resource description framework
  • nanopublications


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