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Web mapping is the process of designing, implementing, generating and delivering maps on the World Wide Web and its product. While web mapping primarily deals with technological issues, web cartography additionally studies theoretic aspects: the use of web maps, the evaluation and optimization of techniques and workflows, the usability of web maps, social aspects, and more. Web GIS is similar to web mapping but with an emphasis on analysis, processing of project specific geodata and exploratory aspects. Often the terms web GIS and web mapping are used synonymously, even if they don't mean exactly the same. In fact, the border between web maps and web GIS is blurry. Web maps are often a presentation media in web GIS and web maps are increasingly gaining analytical capabilities.
A special case of web maps are mobile maps, displayed on mobile computing devices, such as mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs and GPS. If the maps on these devices are displayed by a mobile web browser or web user agent, they can be regarded as mobile web maps. If the mobile web maps also display context and location sensitive information, such as points of interest, the term Location-based services is frequently used."
"The use of the web as a dissemination medium for maps can be regarded as a major advancement in cartography and opens many new opportunities, such as realtime maps, cheaper dissemination, more frequent and cheaper updates of data and software, personalized map content, distributed data sources and sharing of geographic information. It also implicates many challenges due to technical restrictions (low display resolution and limited bandwidth, in particular with mobile computing devices, many of which are physically small, and use slow wireless Internet connections), copyright and security issues, reliability issues and technical complexity. While the first web maps were primarily static, today's web maps can be fully interactive and integrate multiple media. This means that both web mapping and web cartography also have to deal with interactivity, usability and multimedia issues."
- 1 Development and implementation
- 2 Types of web maps
- 3 History of web mapping
- 4 Web mapping technologies
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Development and implementation
The advent of web mapping can be regarded as a major new trend in cartography. Previously, cartography was restricted to a few companies, institutes and mapping agencies, requiring expensive and complex hardware and software as well as skilled cartographers and geomatics engineers. With the rise of web mapping, a range of data and technology was born - from free data generated by OpenStreetMap to proprietary datasets owned by Navteq, Google, Waze, and others. A range of free software to generate maps has also been generated, alongside proprietary tools like ArcGIS. As a result, the barrier to entry for creating maps on the web has shifted from that of the paper atlas and other traditional cartography.
Types of web maps
A first classification of web maps has been made by Kraak. He distinguished static and dynamic web maps and further distinguished interactive and view only web maps. However, today in the light of an increased number of different web map types, this classification needs some revision. Today, there are additional possibilities regarding distributed data sources, collaborative maps, personalized maps, etc.
Analytic web maps
These web maps offer GIS analysis, either with geodata provided, or with geodata uploaded by the map user. As already mentioned, the borderline between analytic web maps and web GIS is blurry. Often, parts of the analysis are carried out by a serverside GIS and the client displays the result of the analysis. As web clients gain more and more capabilities, this task sharing may gradually shift.
Animated web maps
Animated Maps show changes in the map over time by animating one of the graphical or temporal variables. Various data and multimedia formats and technologies allow the display of animated web maps: SVG, Adobe Flash, Java, QuickTime, etc., also with varying degrees of interaction. Examples for animated web maps are weather maps, maps displaying dynamic natural or other phenomena (such as water currents, wind patterns, traffic flow, trade flow, communication patterns,social studies projects, and for college life, etc.).
Collaborative web maps
Collaborative maps are still new, immature and complex to implement, but show a lot of potential. The method parallels the Wikipedia project where various people collaborate to create and improve maps on the web. Technically, an application allowing simultaneous editing across the web would have to ensure that geometric features being edited by one person are locked, so they can't be edited by other persons at the same time. Also, a minimal quality check would have to be made, before data goes public. Some collaborative map projects:
- HERE Map Creator
- Google Map Maker
- meta:Maps - survey of Wikimedia map proposals on Wikipedia:Meta
- (Please add additional notes, references and examples here!)
Dynamically created web maps
These maps are created on demand each time the user reloads the webpages, often from dynamic data sources, such as databases. The webserver generates the map using a web map server or self written software.
Atlas projects often went through a renaissance when they made a transition to a web based project. In the past, atlas projects often suffered from expensive map production, small circulation and limited audience. Updates were expensive to produce and took a long time until they hit the public. Many atlas projects, after moving to the web, can now reach a wider audience, produce cheaper, provide a larger number of maps and map types and integrate with and benefit from other web resources. Some atlases even ceased their printed editions after going online, sometimes offering printing on demand features from the online edition. Some atlases (primarily from North America) also offer raw data downloads of the underlying geospatial data sources.
Realtime web maps
Realtime maps show the situation of a phenomenon in close to realtime (only a few seconds or minutes delay). Data is collected by sensors and the maps are generated or updated at regular intervals or immediately on demand. Examples are weather maps, traffic maps or vehicle monitoring systems.
Static web maps
Static web pages are view only with no animation and interactivity. They are only created once, often manually and infrequently updated. Typical graphics formats for static web maps are PNG, JPEG, GIF, or TIFF (e.g., drg) for raster files, SVG, PDF or SWF for vector files. Often, these maps are scanned paper maps and had not been designed as screen maps. Paper maps have a much higher resolution and information density than typical computer displays of the same physical size, and might be unreadable when displayed on screens at the wrong resolution.
History of web mapping
This section contains some of the milestones of web mapping, online mapping services and atlases.
- 1989-90: Birth of the WWW, WWW invented at CERN for the exchange of research documents.
- 1993-07: Xerox PARC Map Viewer, The first mapserver based on CGI/Perl, allowed reprojection styling and definition of map extent.
- 1994: The World Wide Earthquake Locator, the first interactive web mapping mashup was released, based on the Xerox PARC map view.
- 1994-06: The National Atlas of Canada, The first version of the National Atlas of Canada was released. Can be regarded as the first online atlas.
- 1995: The Gazetteer for Scotland, The prototype version of the Gazetteer for Scotland was released. The first geographical database with interactive mapping.
- 1995: MapGuide, First introduced as Argus MapGuide.
- 1996-02: Mapquest, The first popular online Address Matching and Routing Service with mapping output.
- 1996-06: MultiMap, The UK-based MultiMap website launched offering online mapping, routing and location based services. Grew into one of the most popular UK web sites.
- 1996-11: Geomedia WebMap 1.0, First version of Geomedia WebMap, already supports vector graphics through the use of ActiveCGM.
- 1996-fall: MapGuide, Autodesk acquired Argus Technologies.and introduced Autodesk MapGuide 2.0.
- 1997-06: US Online National Atlas Initiative, The USGS received the mandate to coordinate and create the online National Atlas of the United States of America .
- 1997-07: UMN MapServer 1.0, Developed as Part of the NASA ForNet Project. Grew out of the need to deliver remote sensing data across the web for foresters.
- 1997-10: GeoInfoMapper - GeoInfo Solutions developed the first Java GIS Applet called 'JavaMap'. The application supported the export and conversion of MapInfo data for display in the thematic mapping tool for the web. GeoinfoMapper was demonstrated at the Victoria Computer Show in 1997 and referenced in the Universal Locator project at UC Berkeley School of Information.
- 1998-06: Terraserver USA, A Web Map Service serving aerial images (mainly b+w) and USGS DRGs was released. One of the first popular WMS. This service is a joint effort of USGS, Microsoft and HP.
- 1998-07: UMN MapServer 2.0, Added reprojection support (PROJ.4).
- 1998-08: MapObjects Internet Map Server, ESRI's entry into the web mapping business.
- 1999-08: National Atlas of Canada, 6th edition, This new version was launched at the ICA 1999 conference in Ottawa. Introduced many new features and topics. Is being improved gradually, since then, and kept up-to-date with technical advancements.
- 2000-02: ArcIMS 3.0, The first public release of ESRI's ArcIMS.
- 2000-06: ESRI Geography Network, ESRI founded Geography Network to distribute data and web map services.
- 2000-06: UMN MapServer 3.0, Developed as part of the NASA TerraSIP Project. This is also the first public, open source release of UMN Mapserver. Added raster support and support for TrueType fonts (FreeType).
- 2001 GeoServer, starts of the GeoServer project (Geoserver History)
- 2001-06: MapScript  1.0 for UMN MapServer, Adds a lot of flexibility to UMN MapServer solutions.
- 2001-09: Tirolatlas, A highly interactive online atlas, the first to be based on the SVG standard.
- 2002-06: UMN MapServer 3.5, Added support for PostGIS and ArcSDE. Version 3.6 adds initial OGC WMS support.
- 2002-07: ArcIMS 4.0, Version 4 of the ArcIMS web map server.
- 2003-06: NASA World Wind, NASA World Wind Released. An open virtual globe that loads data from distributed resources across the internet. Terrain and buildings can be viewed 3 dimensionally. The (XML based) markup language allows users to integrate their own personal content. This virtual globe needs special software and doesn't run in a web browser.
- 2003-07: UMN MapServer 4.0, Adds 24bit raster output support and support for PDF and SWF.
- 2004-07: OpenStreetMap, an open source, open content world map founded by Steve Coast.
- 2005-02: Google Maps, The first version of Google Maps. Based on raster tiles organized in a quad tree scheme, data loading done with XMLHttpRequests. This mapping application became highly popular on the web, also because it allowed other people to integrate google map services into their own website.
- 2005-04: UMN MapServer 4.6, Adds support for SVG.
- 2005-06: Google Earth, The first version of Google Earth was released building on the virtual globe metaphor. Terrain and buildings can be viewed 3 dimensionally. The KML (XML based) markup language allows users to integrate their own personal content. This virtual globe needs special software and doesn't run in a web browser.
- 2006-05: WikiMapia Launched
- 2009-01 Nokia makes Ovi Maps free on its smartphones.
Web mapping technologies
The potential number of technologies to implement web mapping projects is almost infinite. Any programming environment, programming language and serverside framework can be used to implement web mapping projects. In any case, both server and client side technologies have to be used. Following is a list of potential and popular server and client side technologies utilized for web mapping.
- Spatial databases are usually object relational databases enhanced with geographic data types, methods and properties. They are necessary whenever a web mapping application has to deal with dynamic data (that changes frequently) or with huge amount of geographic data. Spatial databases allow spatial queries, sub selects, reprojections, geometry manipulations and offer various import and export formats. A popular example for an open source spatial database is PostGIS. MySQL also implements some spatial features, although not as mature as PostGIS. Commercial alternatives are Oracle Spatial or spatial extensions of Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2. The OGC Simple Features for SQL Specification is a standard geometry data model and operator set for spatial databases. Most spatial databases implement this OGC standard.
- WMS servers can generate maps on request, using parameters, such as map layer order, styling/symbolization, map extent, data format, projection, etc. The OGC Consortium defined the WMS standard to define the map requests and return data formats, while other systems use standards like Tile Map Service for a similar purpose. Typical image formats for the map result are PNG, JPEG, GIF or SVG. There are open source WMS Servers such as UMN Mapserver and Mapnik. Commercial alternatives exist from most commercial GIS vendors, such as ESRI ArcIMS and CadCorp.
- Comparison of web map services
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- List of online map services
- Public Participation GIS (PPGIS)
- Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI)
Notes and references
- Fu, P., and J. Sun. 2010. Web GIS: Principles and Applications. ESRI Press. Redlands, CA. ISBN 1-58948-245-X.
- Andreas Neumann Encyclopedia of GIS pg 1261
- See Trap street for examples of how map vendors trap copyright violators, by introducing deliberate errors into their maps.
- Andreas Neumann in Encyclopedia of GIS, Springer, 2007. pg 1262
- Kraak, Menno Jan (2001): Settings and needs for web cartography, in: Kraak and Allan Brown (eds), Web Cartography, Francis and Taylor, New York, p. 3–4. see also webpage . Accessed 2007-01-04.
- For technological context, see History of the World Wide Web and related topics under History of computer hardware.
- More details are in: History of the World Wide Web#1980–91: Development of the WWW.
- ActiveCGM is evidently an ActiveX control that displays CGM files.
- See Universal Locator project at UC Berkeley, 1998: .
- Fu, P., and J. Sun. 2010. Web GIS: Principles and Applications. ESRI Press. Redlands, CA. ISBN 1-58948-245-X.
- Graham, M. 2010. Neogeography and the Palimpsests of Place. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie. 101(4), 422-436.
- Kraak, Menno-Jan and Allan Brown (2001): Web Cartography – Developments and prospects, Taylor & Francis, New York, ISBN 0-7484-0869-X.
- Mitchell, Tyler (2005): Web Mapping Illustrated, O'Reilly, Sebastopol, 350 pages, ISBN 0-596-00865-1. This book discusses various Open Source Web Mapping projects and provides hints and tricks as well as examples.
- Peterson, Michael P. (ed.) (2003): Maps and the Internet, Elsevier, ISBN 0-08-044201-3.
- Rambaldi G, Chambers R., McCall M, And Fox J. 2006. Practical ethics for PGIS practitioners, facilitators, technology intermediaries and researchers. PLA 54:106-113, IIED, London, UK
- Gaffuri J, 2012. Toward web mapping with vector data. Vol. 7478 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer, Ch. 7, pp. 87-101. DOI:10.1007/978-3-642-33024-7_7
- UMN MapServer documentation and tutorials
- Webmapping with SVG, Postgis and UMN MapServer tutorials
- International Cartographic Association (ICA), the world body for mapping and GIScience professionals
- Open Forum on Participatory Geographic Information Systems and Technologies - a global network of PGIS/PPGIS practitioners with Spanish, Portuguese and French-speaking chapters.