Atom Makes a Better WFS

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Atom, including both the syndication format and publishing protocol. At Foss4g, I gave a talk that argued that Atom offers a better solution for exchanging geographic information than OGC’s Web Feature Service (WFS) standard.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve finally put my slides online in a Web friendly format. If you’re interested in just the quick summary, it goes like this.

WFS is not designed for the web:

  • Its lack of URIs means no linking, page rank, etc.
  • Its proprietary interface requires custom clients that are tightly coupled to servers
  • Its incorrect use of HTTP as a transport protocol throws away the benefits of the web infrastructure (caching, load balancing)
  • Its lack of a common GML schema causes information to be segregated by organization, industry type, problem domain

The result is there is no serendipity (pdf file) with WFS – just think of how many WFS mashups you see.

In contrast, Atom is designed for the Web:

  • Everything has a URI
  • It uses a standard interface based on HTTP
  • It uses standard formats
  • It has full support for linking and therefore session state
  • Atom fully utilizes the Web’s infrastructure

The result is that Atom is designed for serendipty – allowing clever developers to build new, and unexpected, applications. And as I said earlier this year:

Atom offers a great foundation for building web services. Its a no-brainer to see that Atom will blow away the WS-DeathStar (which is a mocking tribute to the mountains of specifications that IBM, Microsoft and others have generated for defining web services).

But I think Atom will go farther – it will become the lingua franca of Web Services just as HTML is the lingua franca of the Web.

In my opinion OGC should extract the spatial specific parts of WFS (a suprisingly small part of the specification) and rewrite it as an Atom extension.

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