We created GeoSeer to solve a problem: it's an absolute pain to find spatial data.
There are hundreds of thousands of public-facing geospatial web-services out there using the Open GeoSpatial (OGC) (new window) standards (Web Map Server (WMS), Web Feature Service (WFS), Web Coverage Service (WCS), and Web Map Tile Service (WMTS)) to serve data, but they have only limited discoverability. We wanted to create a search engine that would bring all of these services into a single place, so we created GeoSeer.
Out of the literally millions of freely and publicly available datasets, a huge number of them are spatial, but how do you find the one that you need for your GIS project? No-one really wants to go rummaging through hundreds of data portals and outdated lists of services simply to find a dataset about the location of fire stations in Warwickshire for example.
In particular we wanted to solve the problem for spatial data because - by definition - it already has a location associated with it. This means we can return more relevant results: in the fire stations example, the fire stations in Butte, California, USA are unlikely to be of interest to you.
How do I use these results?
All of these results are datasets made available via standards compliant geospatial web services. To access them, you'll need to use a GIS (Geographic Information System). QGIS (new window) is a popular and free GIS and supports all of these standards and many other spatial and non-spatial formats besides. There are lots of tutorials online explaining how to add services - this search (new window) is a good start.
Specifically these acronyms are (with links to Wikipedia that open in a new window):
- WMS (Web Map Service) - basically, a map
- WFS (Web Feature Service) - raw vector data
- WCS (Web Coverage Service) - raw raster data
- WMTS (Web Map Tile Service) - a pre-rendered basemap
Once you have a GIS, perform your GeoSeer Search. Click on a result that interests you and it will bring up more information about that dataset and its service(s). At the top of that page you can find the GetCapabilities URL; you'll need to feed this into the GIS. You can also find the dataset name/title at the top - you'll need these to choose the right dataset as some services have hundreds or even thousands of datasets.
Do you have an API?
Yes we do! There's an entire page filled with information about the GeoSeer API. The API is a great way to programmatically access our services from within your own web-gis. The API includes many more search options than the web search, including a services search. Alas it's not free (we do have to pay the bills!), but we think it's worth it.
The API schema is comprehensively documented and built around the OpenAPI 3 standard, so there's plenty of tooling you can use to integrate it into your workflow and/or products.
Alternatively if you want something in-house, you can License GeoSeer database.
Can I have your data please?
Sure! We think we've built something cool from all this data, but there are lots of other uses for it too. The GeoSeer Licensing allows you to license the database (or portions thereof) from us on very reasonable terms.
If you don't want to maintain your own systems but want us to do it, then the GeoSeer API may be for you.
How do I find services? Or see all datasets in a service?
The bad news is you can't do this with the web-search. The good news is you can do this with the GeoSeer API which has endpoints for searching for services and for listing all datasets in a service. Or take a look at Licensing GeoSeer which gives you a local database with all this information in it and much more besides.
Do you have a blog?
We do indeed. If you want to find out about geospatial web services and scraping them, then GeoSeer Blog is the place for you.
Is there a stats page?
So you're a data nerd too? Cool! There's a page stuffed with stats just waiting for you here. And if you can't find what you want on there, contact us and ask and we'll see what we can do.
We also have some nifty plots showing the dataset extents.
How does it work?
The GeoSeer spider crawls lots of different sources, using various API's to discover the many geospatial web-services that are registered with them. It then downloads the GetCapabilities document for every web-service it can find (GetCapabilities is an OGC standard XML document with lots of information about what datasets exist in a service). We then post-process all of those GetCapabilities documents, removing duplicate datasets, cleaning them up, determining the spatial extent, and finally making them searchable.
The end result is the largest database of its kind*, which sits behind a simple, fast, search page (* to the best of our knowledge, and we've looked!).
I don't like the results...
Unfortunately the results brought back by GeoSeer aren't perfect, in large part because the source metadata is often lacking. Lets be honest here, no-one likes writing metadata!
GeoSeer does its best to clear up bad data and remove results when it can't. The following problems are things we can't do anything about, yet are remarkably common:
- Bad/missing/unclear dataset descriptions/abstracts in the GetCapabilities documents - often they don't describe the dataset at all.
- No suitable keywords in the dataset.
- Incomplete/non-existent service-level metadata (contact info, service abstract, name, etc.).
- Bad/missing/unclear dataset names and titles. A dataset called "1" doesn't help anyone know what it's about.
- Bad spatial information - wrong coordinates and/or incorrect projections.
- ArcGIS Server - Even if the data curator has taken the time and trouble to enter lots of user information about a service, ArcGIS Server doesn't typically expose this via its OGC GetCapabilities. If you're an ESRI customer, please report this as a bug to them.
So, if you host a geospatial web service, please make sure your metadata is correct! If you go and update it now and we already index it, we'll find it on our next crawl and everyone will benefit from better results.
For our part, we're constantly working to improve both the quality and quantity of the results.
There are no adverts, where are the ads?
We won't mince words here: We hate seeing adverts, so why should we foist them on you? They invade your privacy by tracking you around the internet, they're a prime source of malware, they're usually deceitful, and they're largely obnoxious. We have yet to meet anyone who actually likes them (excepting the people who sell them), so we don't have ads.
So rather than selling you out for a quick-buck, we instead seek to make GeoSeer sustainable via the paid-for GeoSeer API and GeoSeer Licensing. If you like the service and want it to stay around, then why not buy into one of these and integrate it into your own application/product/web-GIS/etc? The GeoSeer API also has more features than the free web-search version, and the GeoSeer Licensing lets you do all manner of things with the data locally, including building products around it.
I have a suggestion for...
Cool! Email it to us at the Contact Us address below.
We're always up for new datasets, new data portals, new search ideas, and anything else that will help us solve this problem.
If you have any feedback, questions, suggestions, or comments about GeoSeer we'd love to hear them, send us an email to: hello @ geoseer.net (remove the spaces).
We're particularly interested in new data sources.
We'd like to credit the following:
Boring legal stuff
We value privacy, including yours, and we don't like multi-thousand-word EULA's, so we keep this short and simple:
- We don't endorse any of the results. There's no filtering or censorship here, we only do the minimum-necessary data-cleansing for "make it work" and "no empty results" purposes.
- In the incredibly unlikely situation this website/service breaks your computer, burns down your house, or otherwise starts armageddon, it's not our fault!
- We don't set any cookies.
- We don't do any tracking.
- We do keep the standard server-side access logs.
- Please don't mine our site. If you want access to the raw data, you can License GeoSeer.
GeoSeer Licensed has its own set of terms and conditions.