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When we asked three years ago about when will we see an open standard vector format, it generated a lot of comments. Now, APB links to a very interesting blog entry named The Shapefile 2.0 manifesto. From the entry: "Despite it’s popularity, Shapefile does have some serious limitations, mainly due to it’s DBF heritage:
* A shapefile is limited to 2 GB or 65535 records.
* Records are limited to 1000 bytes or 32 fields.
* Field names are limited to 8 characters, character fields can hold up to 254 bytes.
* Unicode is not supported.
Currently the only real alternative, for data exchange, is Geography Markup Language (GML) as defined by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). An XML dialect, GML has none of the limitations of Shapefile this is why Ordnance Survey use GML to supply MasterMap, a highly detailed vector map of Great Britain. Support for GML in software is growing, but it’s unsuitable as a storage format. [...] I believe that a portable, standalone spatial database, would make a very good successor to Shapefile. Such a format would drive the GIS market forward, increasing usage of GIS by making it easier to share edit, publish and share GIS data. A portable spatial database would negate the need for the import, view, edit, export cycle that GML imposes.
At the moment I see 3 contenders for the crown:
1. File Geodatabase is a format from ESRI, it is natively supported by ArcGIS. ESRI proclaim it “Allow[s] users to easily exchange geodatabases.” That is true only if both users are running ESRI’s ArcGIS software. File Geodatabase is a proprietary format, despite promises by ESRI when it was launched.
2. Spatial Data Format (SDF) is a format from Autodesk, it is native support . Support is included as part of their Feature Data Objects library, released as Open Source. SDF is based on the popular SQLite embedded database engine.
3. Spatialite is another format based on SQLite, by an Alessandro Furieri. Spatialite is in it’s infancy still, it’s first release was 11 months ago.