Should we treat the two tags spatial-database and geodatabase as synonyms?

Seems like the guys on Wikipedia haven't come to a conclusion on this topic either: see Geodatabase on en.wp.

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4 Answers

Definitely not. A spatial database is an RDBMS with spatial types, indexes and functions, see: PostGIS, Oracle Spatial, SQL Server Spatial, etc. A geodatabase is a particular database schema designed by ESRI for managing what they call "layers" as well as their bolted on handling of "versioning", "topology" and other ESRI application specific storage requirements. A geodatabase schema can appear in a spatial database, but also can occur in non-spatial databases like Access and even in custom file formats like FGDB.

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"A geodatabase is a particular database schema designed by ESRI []" ... Yes, ESRI calls their product geodatabase. But as far as I see it, we (or the WP community) haven't reached a consensus yet that the term geodatabase has to be limited to this ESRI product. –  underdark Nov 18 '10 at 9:19
    
I would argue that conflating the terms "spatial database" and "geodatabase" does semantic harm. It leads to confusing questions like "is PostGIS a geodatabase?" –  Paul Ramsey Nov 18 '10 at 17:21
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@paul I usually bow and back away from your posts, as your experience and understanding usually supercede mine. In this case I don't agree though: if we take away the 'base' suffix your argument says conflating the terms "spatial data" and "geo data" is also wrong -- and that is technically true as spatial need not be earth specific while geo is -- but the two are synonymous every place I've worked in the last 15 years. I would resolve this by putting (most of) your description above in the "esri-geodatabase" tag wiki definition. –  matt wilkie Nov 18 '10 at 23:13
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Of course if more people prefer to split spatial-db and geo-db I'll go along. I see right now opinion is 50/50. –  matt wilkie Nov 18 '10 at 23:14
    
@paul, to put this concisely: you are saying in your mind esri-geodatabase and geodatabase are synonyms, and spatial-database is something else. Correct? –  matt wilkie Nov 25 '10 at 17:13
    
Yes, in my mind ESRI has sufficiently taken over the term "geodatabase" that it is a synonym for "esri-geodatabase". I can envision a world where "geodatabase" might have a more generic meaning, but I don't think it's the world I live in. –  Paul Ramsey Nov 25 '10 at 18:26
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ESRI has registered www.gis.com. Do we let them trademark and take over the term GIS as well? It tend to use the term spatial database and I know that many people mean 'ESRI' geodatabase when they use the term geodatabase, but I don't feel like ESRI should be able to own the term geodatabase just because they started using it to refer to some of their data formats. –  DavidF Nov 30 '10 at 14:29
    
It's a simple function of how the term is commonly used and understood. Meaning is nothing but the meeting point of language and convention. While, semantically speaking, it's easy to see how "geodatabase" could be understood as a generic term, in practice (i.e. by the convention of GIS practitioners) "geodatabase" is commonly understood to mean a proprietary Esri spatial DB. –  zwaap Dec 1 '10 at 22:21
    
@DavidF - of course not. "GIS" is not commonly thought of as something Esri-specific. Esri of course does not "own" the term geodatabase. If enough people start using it differently, then it takes a differnt meaning. It is not particularly up to us to determine how the term is used. We do each, of course, have one vote, in that we can each use it how we choose, but that's a drop in an ocean. Unless some of you want to start a campaign to promote an alternate usage. Possible, but not likely to be very fruitful. –  zwaap Dec 1 '10 at 22:28
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My vote would be yes. I use them as synonyms and if I'm talking about a personal or file or sde geodatabase, I'll qualify it by saying an ESRI geodatabase.

I think most people who work in all-ESRI environments omit the "ESRI". Over time people assume that geodatabase is an ESRI format and use it as such.

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I think we should enforce the tag esri-geodatabase (gis.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/esri-geodatabase). It's only one kind of geodatabase. –  underdark Nov 3 '10 at 12:09
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Done. And I learned there is more to synonym tags than just marking them as interchangeable, they can also be merged: that is one tag is subsumes the contents of the other, and the other is removed. (the removed tag can still be used, it is changed to the master automatically on save). Only the tag with the most questions can be "master". In this case spatial-database is the master and geodatabase the synonym. Should I also merge geodatabase into spatial-geodatabase or is there value in having them independent? (personally I think they should be merged.) –  matt wilkie Nov 8 '10 at 18:28
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Isn't spatial-geodatabase kind of redundant? I'd probably re-tag those. Otherwise merge them. –  underdark Nov 8 '10 at 19:19
    
I merged them. It went the wrong way though, geodatabase tag has disapeared while spatial-database remains and there doesn't seem to be any way to reverse the relationship. One could delete the synonym, remove spatial-database from all tag posts, delete the tag, create 'geodatabase' tag, create 'spatial-geodatabase' syn, then re-tag all the posts. I'm not sure it's worth the work. I am happy to do so if others think it is a good idea. We will be using these tags for a long time to come and it's only going to get harder to change later. –  matt wilkie Nov 9 '10 at 19:27
    
I'm fine with either of the two tags being master. –  underdark Nov 10 '10 at 19:42
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technical note: Users with more than 2500 reputation and a total answer score of 10 or more on the tag, can suggest and vote on tag synonyms. Suggestions will be automatically approved when they reach a score of 4, and automatically deleted when they reach a score of -2. (from here)

Since at present there are only 3 users above the voting threshold and 1 just under, and very few tags with more than 10 uses by any single person, the mechanism can't work. So I suggest for the moment just propose the synonyms in this thread and the moderators can act on them when general agreement is voiced.

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I have to chime in and agree with Paul on this. Geodatabase terms has become synonymous with ESRI technology. And sure while you might be technically correct that a spatial database is also a geodatabase I think it adds confusion to the issue.

What is the benefit, other than trying to prove a point, to calling them both geodatabases. And if it is to prove a point I think you only create confusion and make slightly less technical people confused.

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It might also confuse people without ESRI training to learn that geodatabase is one specific product and not a synonym for spatial databases. Especially after reading related Wikipedia articles. –  underdark Nov 30 '10 at 8:52
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