Web Map Service

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Developed by OGC
Initial release 1999[1]
Type of format Container format
Container for XML, JPEG, PNG, others
Open format? Yes, with Copyright[2]

A Web Map Service (WMS) is a standard protocol for serving (over the Internet) georeferenced map images which a map server generates using data from a GIS database.[3] The Open Geospatial Consortium developed the specification and first published it in 1999.[1]


The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) became involved in developing standards for web mapping after a paper was published in 1997 by Allan Doyle, outlining a "WWW Mapping Framework".[4] The OGC established a task force to come up with a strategy,[5] and organized the "Web Mapping Testbed" initiative, inviting pilot web mapping projects that built upon ideas by Doyle and the OGC task force. Results of the pilot projects were demonstrated in September 1999, and a second phase of pilot projects ended in April 2000.[6]

The Open Geospatial Consortium released WMS version 1.0.0 in April 2000,[7] followed by version 1.1.0 in June 2001,[8] and version 1.1.1 in January 2002.[9] The OGC released WMS version 1.3.0 in January 2004.[10]


WMS specifies a number of different request types, two of which are required by any WMS server:[11]

  • GetCapabilities – returns parameters about the WMS (such as map image format and WMS version compatibility) and the available layers (map bounding box, coordinate reference systems, URI of the data and whether the layer is mostly opaque or not)
  • GetMap – returns a map image. Parameters include: width and height of the map, coordinate reference system, rendering style, image format

Request types that WMS providers may optionally support include:

  • GetFeatureInfo – if a layer is marked as 'queryable' then you can request data about a coordinate of the map image.
  • DescribeLayer – returns the feature types of the specified layer or layers, which can be further described using WFS or WCS requests. This request is dependent on the SLD Profile of WMS.[12]
  • GetLegendGraphic – return an image of the map's legend image, giving a visual guide to map elements.

Map image[edit]

A WMS server usually serves the map in a bitmap format, e.g. PNG, GIF or JPEG. In addition, vector graphics can be included: such as points, lines, curves and text, expressed in SVG or WebCGM format.


Open source software that provide web map services capability include:

Proprietary server software that allow providing web map services include:

Open source standalone (client side) software that allow viewing web map services include:

  • Geozilla
  • QGIS Browser
  • osgEarth
  • Marble

Proprietary standalone (client side) software that allow viewing web map services include:

WMS is a widely supported format for maps and GIS data accessed via the Internet and loaded into client side GIS software. Major commercial GIS and mapping software that support WMS include:

Open source software that supports WMS include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Scharl, Arno; Klaus Tochtermann (2007). The Geospatial Web: How Geobrowsers, Social Software and the Web 2.0 are Shaping the Network Society. Springer. p. 225. ISBN 1-84628-826-6. 
  2. ^ "OGC Document Notice". Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Web Map Service". Open Geospatial Consortium. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  4. ^ Doyle, Allan (1997). "WWW Mapping Framework". Open GIS Consortium. 
  5. ^ Cuthbert, A. (1998). "User Interaction with Geospatial Data". Open GIS Consortium. 
  6. ^ Peng, Zhong-Ren; Ming-Hsiang Tsou (2003). Internet GIS. John Wiley and Sons. p. 191. 
  7. ^ "OpenGIS Web Map Server Interface Implementation Specification (Revision 1.0.0)". Open Geospatial Consortium. 2000-04-19. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  8. ^ "Web Map Service Implementation Specification Version 1.1.0". Open Geospatial Consortium. 2001-06-21. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  9. ^ "Web Map Service Implementation Specification – Version 1.1.1". Open Geospatial Consortium. 2002-01-16. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  10. ^ "Web Map Service Implementation Specification – Version 1.3.0". Open Geospatial Consortium. 2004-01-20. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  11. ^ "WMS Server". Mapserver. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  12. ^ "Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD) Profile of the OpenGIS Web Map Service". OGC. Retrieved 2015-07-01. 
  13. ^ a b – Luciad solutions
  14. ^ "WMS Viewer – Android Apps on Google Play". play.google.com. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  15. ^ "WMS Viewer on line". wmsviewer-rodis.rhcloud.com. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  16. ^ "Spotfire". spotfire.tibco.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 

External links[edit]