Web Feature Service (WFS) is an open standard created by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) that allows for the requesting and manipulation of geographical features across the web using platform-independent calls. WFS provides operations for accessing, querying, updating, creating or deleting vector data that are held in a spatially enabled database on a web server.

What is WFS?

WFS is a type of web service protocol designed specifically for the needs of Geographic Information System (GIS) users. It is meant to work with HTTP and operates on geographical features which are the geospatial datasets used in a GIS. WFS supports the ability for a client to read, write and modify spatial data in any format defined by Geography Markup Language(GML). It provides end users the ability to directly manipulate spatial data over the web.

Different from other web mapping services like the Web Map Service (WMS), WFS returns actual features with geometry and attributes that can be analyzed and manipulated rather than just a graphical image of geographic data, hence allowing users to perform more powerful geospatial analysis than with traditional static map images.


What are the main operations of WFS?

WFS supports three main types of operations: GetCapabilities, DescribeFeatureType, and GetFeature. GetCapabilities returns service metadata. DescribeFeatureType provides a client with schema information about feature types that the client can operate on. GetFeature returns the actual feature instances.

How is WFS used in GIS?

In GIS, WFS is used to share and edit geospatial data. GIS users can access a WFS in a spatial client, browser or a custom application, send requests to query, insert, update, delete geospatial data on a WFS server.

What is the difference between WFS and WMS?

The main difference between WFS and WMS is that while WMS serves georeferenced map images, WFS serves raw vector data. WFS allows the requester to process the data, while WMS server processes the data and returns a finished map, which can be used as a static map image.

What is the significance of WFS in data sharing?

WFS plays a vital role in data sharing as it enables users to access geospatial data from multiple sources in real-time. This fosters collaborative and interactive use of data, and facilitates spatial data integration.

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