WMS basics

GeoServer provides support for Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Map Service (WMS) versions 1.1.1 and 1.3.0. This is the most widely used standard for generating maps on the web, and it is the primary interface to request map products from GeoServer. Using WMS makes it possible for clients to overlay maps from several different sources in a seamless way.

GeoServer’s WMS implementation fully supports the standard, and is certified compliant against the OGC’s test suite. It includes a wide variety of rendering and labeling options, and is one of the fastest WMS Servers for both raster and vector data.

GeoServer WMS supports reprojection to any coordinate reference system in the EPSG database. It is possible to add additional coordinate systems if the Well Known Text definition is known. See Coordinate Reference System Handling for details.

GeoServer fully supports the Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD) standard, and uses SLD files as its native styling language. For more information on how to style data in GeoServer see the section Styling

Differences between WMS versions

The major differences between versions 1.1.1 and 1.3.0 are:

  • In 1.1.1 geographic coordinate systems specified with the EPSG namespace are defined to have an axis ordering of longitude/latitude. In 1.3.0 the ordering is latitude/longitude. See Axis Ordering below for more details.

  • In the GetMap operation the srs parameter is called crs in 1.3.0. GeoServer supports both keys regardless of version.

  • In the GetFeatureInfo operation the x and y parameters are called i and j in 1.3.0. GeoServer supports both keys regardless of version, except when in CITE-compliance mode.

Axis Ordering

The WMS 1.3.0 specification mandates using the axis ordering as defined in the EPSG database. For instance, for EPSG:4326 the axis ordering is latitude/longitude, or north/east. This is contrary to the fact that most spatial data is usually in longitude/latitude, or east/north.

The WMS 1.1 always uses east/north axis ordering. So when upgrading from WMS 1.1, if the CRS defines north/east axis ordering (e.g. EPSG:4326), the coordinate order in the BBOX parameter must be reversed.

For example, consider the WMS 1.1 request using the WGS84 SRS (EPSG:4326):


The equivalent WMS 1.3.0 request is:


Note that the coordinates specified in the BBOX parameter are reversed.

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