The GeoPackage - Salvation from the Shapefile and the GeoTIFF

January 10, 2013

I talked a bit about the GeoPackage on my personal blog, but I wanted to hit on it some more here at WeoGeo. The OGC has opened the comment period for GeoPackage, so please, if you feel vested in this format say something, anything (tell them you don’t like it if you feel that way).


Being a location data marketplace means that we deliver data in many different formats. That’s the beauty of WeoGeo, you can get the data in the format that you want. This awesome has a downside though. Sometimes the format you want isn’t designed for the scale of data. Take two of our most popular formats, Shapefiles and GeoTIFF. Both have limitations in size that are hit very quickly with many of our large datasets. We’ve resorted to tiling them on order so that you can get valid Shapefiles or GeoTIFFs, but that isn’t always optimal. Especially for polygons, whose tiling causes tables to be out of sync with the data.

We have been working on adding File Geodatabase support, which solves the problem of delivering extra large rasters and vectors, but support for the File Geodatabase is far from universal. What we need is a format that supports both raster and vector data and is supported by all the large vendors; Esri, Autodesk, Bentley, and Intergraph/MapInfo/CadCorp, as well as by open source tools. OGC has its faults, but many governments require OGC formats thus their standards end up being supported (unfortunately, sometimes poorly supported). The GeoPackage has a unique opportunity to succeed where SpatiaLite, File Geodatabase, GeoPDF, and various GML formats have failed.

I have gotten a lot of feedback on my blog and twitter saying that an OGC format like GeoPackage is stupid, bloated, and destined for failure and that we should all continue what we are doing because the market will decide. To me that is just sticking your head in the sand. The market is searching for something besides SHP and GeoTIFF and is waiting for leadership. There is only one organization that can get this implemented across the world (well Google did a pretty good job with KML before that became an OGC format) and that’s the OGC. They are secretive, obfuscated, backwards and their website is a classic case of poor user interfaces. That said, I’m VERY hopeful for GeoPackage becoming a standard.

So, step one is to submit comments to the OGC. Step two is wait for it to be accepted as a standard (how long can that take, right?). Step three is to get your favorite GIS package to support the format. Step four is to finally enjoy the method of sharing spatial datasets that we’ve been asking for. I, for one, am going to push this thing at every available opportunity.

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