Content Addressability

Content addressability is important so that you can ask for what you want. When you are asking for (pulling) a container from a registry, the registry may provide content addressable storage, or some similar mechanism, to ensure that you get exactly what you are requesting.

Unique Resource Identifiers

How do we ask for containers? We ask for a unique resource identifier (uri) which broadly comes in this form:


The example above is given in a familiar format for many users - one where we have a server (the registry) with some higher level project or organization (project), and under this project some set of container names that have different versions (tags and digets). Some might clump the entire first address into a general tag, the “namespace”:


For our purposes, let’s use language to describe a concrete example of a repository on Docker Hub (the registry):

  • registry: is usually a server running software with an API to interact with to pull images. Docker Hub is our registry in this example.
  • organization: is part of the namespace, and is the (more humanly interpretable) portion of the address.
  • repository is the specific container. On Docker Hub this might come from a user pushing containers directly, or an automated build from a connected webhook.

Let’s make this example more specific. Here is the busybox container on Docker Hub. I want to pull it!
I might be tempted to do this:

$ Using default tag: latest
latest: Pulling from library/busybox
697743189b6d: Pull complete 
Digest: sha256:061ca9704a714ee3e8b80523ec720c64f6209ad3f97c0ff7cb9ec7d19f15149f
Status: Downloaded newer image for busybox:latest

That’s great, and I ultimately get a specific tag (the default is “latest” and the digest of my container is shown) but if I wanted to pull the container again, and I did it in the same fashion? Well, take a look at the changes to “latest” (it was updated recently) and you’ll see that I’d likely get a different container.

A (slightly) better interaction might have been asking for a particular tag:

$ docker pull busybox:1.30.1
1.30.1: Pulling from library/busybox
Digest: sha256:061ca9704a714ee3e8b80523ec720c64f6209ad3f97c0ff7cb9ec7d19f15149f
Status: Downloaded newer image for busybox:1.30.1

There is likely not one best way to reference containers, thus the methodology used will vary by project.

$ docker pull busybox@sha256:061ca9704a714ee3e8b80523ec720c64f6209ad3f97c0ff7cb9ec7d19f15149f