Digital Geography

1. July 2012

types of web-maps: concepts and possibilities

In my recent articles I was writing some hints and tutorials for creating a webmap. So what is the basic concept behind it and what are the possibilities.

1. Hail the GMAP creator

GoogleMaps was probably the main step in webmap perception and usage. Until now it is the quasi standard application for viewing spatial content. The ongoing developments in the keyhole markup language increases the possibilities and usability in everyday work including geocoding and usage of raster as layers:


show big map
The drawback in using GoogleMaps is two-folded: On one hand you will use proprietary things and everything is hosted using google servers. Another disadvantage is this sticky basemap. You cannot use other layers as basemap.

2. Hail the JS creator

A second level might be the usage of OpenLayers which is more or less just a JavaScript library to serve web-maps coming from different sources. It is possible to fetch different sources of web-maps and to create an own customized web-map as you would like it. Compared to GoogleMaps you can change basemaps easily:

The disadvantage of OpenLayers is the component of consumption. You will not be able to serve own content.

3. Hail the GeoServer

Served data is the major need for a nice web-map. If you want to serve your own shapefiles / geodata without using services like ArcGIS online you may want to have a look on GeoServer. Geoserver gives you the possibility to deploy your own WMS and show your web-map using OpenLayers as well. Due to its user concept and universality I think it is the most advanced alternative to the cost intensive ArcGIS Server environment: