GnomeVFS is short for GNOME Virtual File System. It provides an abstraction layer for
the reading, writing and execution of files. It was primarily used
by the Nautilus file
manager and other GNOME applications before
A cause of confusion is the fact that the file system abstraction used by the Linux kernel is also
called the virtual file system (VFS) layer.
This is however at a lower level.
A replacement called
currently in development which also allows partitions to be mounted
through FUSE. 
As of April 2008, the GNOME project has declared GnomeVFS deprecated in favour of
GVFS and GIO, requesting that developers not use it
in new applications.