Following the DOI on the web leads the reader to the web page where the article appears. The page it leads to typically displays the article abstract, with links to the full text of the article as HTML and/or PDF, possibly restricted to subscribers only, and offering non-subscribers a choice to pay-per-view for the single article (at sometimes jaw-dropping prices...)
The "old way" to resolve a DOI that was not already formatted as an HTTP web link to the abstract page was this:
- select the DOI string and copy it to the clipboard
- open a browser and visit dx.doi.org
- paste in the DOI string and click to get the DOI resolved
That's not so hard, but it does require a trip to a specific site - either memorize and retype its URL, or make it a bookmark among your top picks. I'm finding space for such frequently needed bookmarks has gotten crowded over time.
This handy Firefox plugin CNRI Handle Extension for Firefox lets Firefox users avoid the need to visit dx.doi.org, and simply paste a DOI: string into the address bar. The plug-in adds a new URI type "DOI:" that Firefox now understands. It does largely the same thing as visiting dx.doi.org and submitting the DOI string there, but saves a trip to that page. The resolving happens in the background.
After adding the plug-in and restarting Firefox, I tried this out and pasted "doi:10.1175/2010JCLI3500.1" into the address bar. It worked! The browser went directly to the J.Clim. page for this paper. It did not even rewrite the address bar to substitute the HTTP:// format URL for the same page. That's a point to beware of: if you start using this, remember that everyone else may not have installed it yet. If you want to post or link to accessible URLs for others to get to an article you're citing or assigning, be sure to find the "permalink" HTTP:// URL for the abstract page, rather than just the DOI string.