MS RFC 82: Support for Enhanced Layer Metadata Management

Authors:Tom Kralidis (tomkralidis at
Last Edited:2012/10/08
Version:MapServer 6.2


OGC Web Services (OWS) have the ability to advertise content metadata associated with a given resource (WMS Layer, WFS FeatureType, WCS Coverage, SOS ObservationOffering), both inline to the Capabilities document and as a reference to a given URL (i.e. ISO metadata XML document).

MapServer supports both inline (e.g. wms_title, wms_abstract) and URL based (e.g. wms_metadataurl_href) metadata advertising for OWS Capabilities.

In the case that a given dataset does not have associated formal XML metadata, Capabilities XML references to metadata (i.e. WMS MetadataURL) are not available, even though between the LAYER.METADATA/ows_* values and the layer’s spatial properties, enough information can be processed to generate a useful XML metadata document.

The existence of formal XML metadata in MapServer OGC services Capabilities XML provides value to Catalogue services which harvest metadata to support discovery.

It is proposed that MapServer be enhanced to support the generation of XML metadata documents from a given layer’s METADATA and spatial properties.

This enhancement provides dynamic publishing of XML metadata for OWS services for cases where XML metadata does not exist / is not specified for a given resource.

Technical Solution

MapServer will have the ability to generate an ISO 19139:2007 metadata XML document dynamically from LAYER.METADATA/ows_* directives and the given layer’s spatial properties.

MapServer will also provide support for output of a service metadata document formatted as ISO 19119:2005 based on WEB.METADATA ows_* directives. This is an additional service description that supports the INSPIRE initiative.

This functionality will be made available through a MapServer specific HTTP operation called GetMetadata with the following parameters:

  • layer: layer NAME. Optional parameter. If layer is not specified, then an ISO metadata document of the service metadata is returned. If an invalid layer parameter specified, an ows:ExceptionReport is returned

  • outputschema: response schema of metadata. Optional parameter. Possible values:

    If an invalid outputschema parameter specified, an ows:ExceptionReport is returned

Calling GetMetadata with no parameters will return an ISO metadata document of the service metadata.

The initial implementation will cover the ISO metadata standards, and will allow for additional metadata formats to be implemented in the future. In particular, this RFC provides a building block to support the INSPIRE metadata format requirements.


Requesting service metadata:

Requesting specific layer metadata:

Implementation Details

mapows.c (in msOWSDispatch)

if (ows_request.service == NULL) {
  if (EQUAL(ows_request.request, "GetMetadata")) {
    status = msMetadataDispatch(map, request, &ows_request);
  } else if(force_ows_mode) { /* exit if service is not set */


int msMetadataDispatch(mapObj *map, cgiRequestObj *requestobj,
    owsRequestObj *ows_request)
  if layer parameter is not specified
    return msMetadataGetServiceMetadata(map, paramsObj, ows_request);
    return msMetadataGetLayerMetadata(map, paramsObj, ows_request);

int msMetadataGetLayerMetadata(mapObj *map, metadataParamsObj *paramsObj,
    owsRequestObj *ows_request)
  if MAP.LAYER.METADATA/ows_metadataurl_href
    return HTTP 301 redirect to MAP.LAYER.METADATA/ows_metadataurl_href
    generate metadata XML based on LAYER metadata spatial properties

int msMetadataGetServiceMetadata(mapObj *map, metadataParamsObj *paramsObj,
    owsRequestObj *ows_request)
  read map->web.metadata
  return ISO 19119:2005 XML

Downstream OGC web service code then implements:

if !LAYER.METADATA.ows_metadataurl_href
  set ows_metadataurl_href to http://host/mapserv?request=GetMetadata&layer=foo
  set ows_metadataurl_format to "text/xml"
  set ows_metadataurl_type to "TC211"


The msautotest/wxs suite will be extended with test cases exemplifying the expected behaviour of GetMetadata.


Documentation will be updated by adding ogc/mapmetadata.txt to ogc/index.txt. As well, wms_server.txt, wfs_server.txt, wcs_server.txt, sos_server.txt will be updated to explain default output if ows_metadataurl_href is not set.

Backwards Compatibility Issues

There are no compatibility issues with existing mapfiles.

This implementation will result in the ability for MapServer OWS Capabilities XML to always advertise XML metadata by reference of a metadata URL (i.e. WMS MetadataURL), but will not override existing behaviour. That is, if a given layer has set ows_metadataurl_href, then this value will be used to advertise metadata XML references. If ows_metadataurl_href is not set, then the code will advertise the metadata via a reference to the GetMetadata operation.

Affected Files

  • mapmetadata.c (new)
  • mapows.c
  • mapwms.c
  • mapwfs.c
  • mapwfs11.c
  • mapwcs.c
  • mapwcs11.c
  • mapwcs20.c
  • mapogcsos.c

Voting History

Adopted on 2012/10/08 with +1 from ThomasB, SteveL, StephanM, PerryN, SteveW, DanielM, and TomK.