OpenURL is a container format for describing requests for access to a publication. As such, it contains metadata about publications, however to describe access requests, it contains data for:
- the resource that contains a link to the publication (e.g., the URL of a second publication (or ontology) that links to the publication of interest)
- the person making the request
- access requested (full text, abstract only, etc.)
- the system that should process the request
- system where the request originates (the system that provided the publication or ontology that linked to the publication of interest, e.g., a publisher or an ontology repository).
OpenURL exists in two versions - the Framework Standard specified in NISO-Z39.88, and the earlier OpenURL0.1, which existed as a de facto standard prior to the development of the Z39.88 specification.