An ARK is a URL created to allow persistent, long-term access to information objects. ARKs can identify objects of any type: digital documents, databases, images, software, and websites, as well as physical objects (books, bones, statues, etc.) and even intangible objects (chemicals, diseases, vocabulary terms, performances).
ARKs support persistent identification, which is necessary and useful because both the protocols used to access objects (such as http and ftp) and the sites that host the objects are subject to change. An ARK contains parts that are impervious to such changes and parts that are flexible enough to support technological changes/improvements. The idea is to create a stable "name" or reference that can be permanently associated with that specific object.