This paper discusses the quality and the accuracy of the Joint Research Center (JRC) fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (FAPAR) products generated from an analysis of Sea‐viewing Wide Field‐of‐view Sensor (SeaWiFS) data. The FAPAR value acts as an indicator of the presence and state of the vegetation and it can be estimated from remote sensing measurements using a physically based approach. The quality of the SeaWiFS FAPAR products assessed in this paper capitalizes on the availability of a 6‐year FAPAR time series over the full globe. This evaluation exercise is performed in two phases involving, first, an analysis of the verisimilitude of the FAPAR products under documented environmental conditions and, second, a direct comparison of the FAPAR values with ground‐based estimations where and when the latter are available. This second phase is conducted following a careful analysis of problems arising for performing such a comparison. This results in the grouping of available field information into broad categories representing different radiative transfer regimes. This strategy greatly helps the interpretation of the results since it recognizes the various levels of difficulty and sources of uncertainty associated with the radiative sampling of different types of vegetation canopies.