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1.4. Web Feature Service (WFS)

Learning Objectives

You will be able...

  • ...to explain how a WFS request works.
  • ...to list the three mandatory operations that are defined by WFS
  • ...to request features from a free map server.


A Web Feature Service (WFS) is an interface allowing requests for geographical features across the Internet using platform-independent calls in the form of URLs. Geographical features can be thought of as the "source code" behind a map, where as the WMS interface return only an image, which can not be edited or spatially analyzed. (Wikipedia)

The WFS specification defines interfaces for describing data manipulation operations of geographic features. Data manipulation operations include the ability to (Wikipedia):

  • Get or query features based on spatial and non-spatial constraints
  • Create a new feature instance
  • Delete a feature instance
  • Update a feature instance

Data is passed back and forth between a Web Feature Server and a client with the Geography Markup Language (GML).

Since a basic Web Feature Service allows only querying and retrieval of features, we only look at that topic in this unit. We provide additional literature in case you are interested in the other operations.

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