I can access WMS and WFS using SOAP and XML. Is there an option to access it using REST and JSON?

I have gone through the specification and couldn't even find the word REST mentioned once.

  • 3
    these specifications were created when everything was supposed to be done with SOAP and XML; the publications with the REST paradigm/architectural style weren't written yet.
    – knb
    Feb 9, 2016 at 9:28
  • @knb That's not correct. Roy Fielding's dissertation that described REST amongst other architectural styles (ics.uci.edu/~fielding/pubs/dissertation/top.htm) was published in 2000. The WMS 1.3.0 specification was published in 2006. WFS 2.0.0 was published in 2010.
    – nmtoken
    Feb 28, 2016 at 13:15
  • 1
    The question confuses two things, REST which is an architectural style and JSON which is a media format. You can get WMS (GetFeatureInfo) and WFS to supply you with JSON as an output format (for example see docs.geoserver.org/stable/en/user/services/wms/…). Interestingly as REST requires hypermedia formats and JSON doesn't define a standard a way of encoding URLs (see json.org) and thus can't be defined as such a hypermedia format, a system that just uses JSON cannot be described as RESTful
    – nmtoken
    Feb 28, 2016 at 13:28
  • 2
    @nmtoken I think your comments would make an excellent answer to this question.
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 4, 2016 at 3:00
  • 3
    @PolyGeo thanks for encouraging me to convert my comments into an answer, time will tell whether it is deemed to be excellent. Worth it for me because I realised by revisiting my references that REST pre-dates SOAP and not the other way around as is often implied.
    – nmtoken
    Mar 7, 2016 at 6:48

1 Answer 1


As @PolyGeo suggested, I am converting my comments into an answer. The answer is split into three parts to broadly reflect the three comments I made.

Part 1

Roy Fielding's dissertation that described Representational State Transfer (REST) amongst other architectural styles Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures was published in 2000.

The dissertation tells us:

Since 1994, the REST architectural style has been used to guide the design and development of the architecture for the modern Web. This chapter describes the experience and lessons learned from applying REST while authoring the Internet standards for the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI)...

and also:

The name "Representational State Transfer" is intended to evoke an image of how a well-designed Web application behaves: a network of web pages (a virtual state-machine), where the user progresses through the application by selecting links (state transitions), resulting in the next page (representing the next state of the application) being transferred to the user and rendered for their use.


REST is not intended to capture all possible uses of the Web protocol standards. There are applications of HTTP and URI that do not match the application model of a distributed hypermedia system.

Numerous OGC web service interface standards have been published since the REST architectural style was described ~ WMS 1.1.1 (2002), OWS Common 1.0 (2005), WCS 1.0 (2005), WMS 1.3.0 (2006), WFS 2.0.0 (2010), OWS Common 2.0 (2010), WCS 2.0 (2012) etc... The list is not comprehensive, but you can see that the opportunity to define a RESTful way of interfacing with spatial data through OGC services has existed for some time, just not implemented, either because there has been no demand until recently, or because the style doesn't naturally fit.

Part 2

The question confuses two things, REST which is an architectural style (see part 1) and JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) which is a lightweight data-interchange format (see json.org). JSON is not regarded as a hypermedia format, because the notation does not formalize a way for encoding URIs. As JSON is not a hypermedia format, and as REST requires hypermedia/hypertext, a system that just uses JSON cannot be described as RESTful.

See: REST APIs must be hypertext-driven ~ Roy T. Fielding (2008) and: REST: I don't Think it Means What You Think it Does ~ Stefan Tilkov (2014)

Part 3

So it is possible currently to have output delivered to you from an OGC service in some JSON formats (though none of these formats are defined by OGC), for example you can get both WMS (GetFeatureInfo) and WFS to supply you with JSON.

OGC is currently looking to define some JSON based formats for the transfer of Geospatial data, for example OM-JSON for Observation and Measurement data.

OGC is also currently looking at how it might address REST in relation to their web service interface standards, for example the next versions of WFS and OWS common are looking at this aspect.

  • 1
    I think the intent of the question is clear. Why are we still dealing with XML on the browser? We badly need a JSON interface and why not one that is compatible with ESRI JSON?
    – ca0v
    Jun 11, 2016 at 18:12
  • Circa 2019 we see OGC API (previously called WFS3) as implementing this.
    – BradHards
    Jun 18, 2019 at 11:36
  • OGC API Features, but it's still not REST, will offer JSON and XML inter al
    – nmtoken
    Jun 18, 2019 at 11:40

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