WFS basics

GeoServer provides support for the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Feature Service (WFS) specification, versions 1.0.0, 1.1.0, and 2.0.0. WFS defines a standard for exchanging vector data over the Internet. With a compliant WFS, clients can query both the data structure and the source data. Advanced WFS operations also support feature locking and edit operations.

GeoServer is the reference implementation of all three versions of the standard, completely implementing every part of the protocol. This includes the basic operations of GetCapabilities, DescribeFeatureType, and GetFeature, as well as more advanced options such as Transaction. GeoServer WFS is also integrated with its Security system to limit access to data and transactions, and supports a variety of WFS output formats, making the raw data more widely available.

Differences between WFS versions

The major differences between the WFS versions are:

  • WFS 1.1.0 and 2.0.0 return GML3 as the default GML, whereas in WFS 1.0.0, the default is GML2. GML3 adopts marginally different ways of specifying a geometry. GeoServer supports requests in both GML3 and GML2 formats.
  • In WFS 1.1.0 and 2.0.0, the SRS (Spatial Reference System, or projection) is specified with urn:x-ogc:def:crs:EPSG:XXXX, whereas in WFS 1.0.0 the specification was This change has implications for the axis order of the returned data.
  • WFS 1.1.0 and 2.0.0 support on-the-fly reprojection of data, which supports returning the data in a SRS other than the native SRS.
  • WFS 2.0.0 introduces a new version of the filter encoding specification, adding support for temporal filters.
  • WFS 2.0.0 supports joins via a GetFeature request.
  • WFS 2.0.0 adds the ability to page results of a GetFeature request via the startIndex and count parameters. GeoServer now supports this functionality in WFS 1.0.0 and 1.1.0.
  • WFS 2.0.0 supports stored queries, which are regular WFS queries stored on the server such that they may be invoked by passing the appropriate identifier with a WFS request.
  • WFS 2.0.0 supports SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) as an alternative to the OGC interface.


There are also two changes to parameter names which can cause confusion. WFS 2.0.0 uses the count parameter to limit the number of features returned rather than the maxFeatures parameter used in previous versions. It also changed typeName to typeNames although GeoServer will accept either.

Axis ordering

WFS 1.0.0 servers return geographic coordinates in longitude/latitude (x/y) order, the most common way to distribute data. For example, most shapefiles adopt this order by default.

However, the traditional axis order for geographic and cartographic systems is the opposite—latitude/longitude (y/x)—and the later WFS specifications respect this. The default axis ordering support is:

  • Latitude/longitude—WFS 1.1.0 and WFS 2.0.0
  • Longitude/latitude—WFS 1.0.0

This may cause difficulties when switching between servers with different WFS versions, or when upgrading your WFS. To minimize confusion and increase interoperability, GeoServer has adopted the following assumptions when specifying projections in the following formats:

Representation Assumed axis order
EPSG:xxxx longitude/latitude (x/y) longitude/latitude (x/y)
urn:x-ogc:def:crs:EPSG:xxxx latitude/longitude (y/x)