Introduction to Web Mapping
Last updated: 2018-10-09 17:15:00
0.1 What is web mapping?
A web map is an interactive display of geographic information, in the form of a web page, that you can use to tell stories and answer questions.
In the past, most digital geographic information was confined to specialized software on desktop PCs and could not be easily shared. With the advent of web mapping, geographical information can be shared, visualized and edited in the browser. The most important advantage to this is accessibility: a web map, just like any website, can be reached by anyone from any device that has a browser and an internet connection.
Web maps are interactive. The term interactive implies that the viewer can interact with the map. This can mean selecting different map data layers or features to view, zooming into a particular part of the map that you are interested in.
Web maps are also said to be powered by the web, rather than just digital maps on the web. This means that the map is usually not self-contained; in other words it depends on the internet. At least some of the content displayed on a web maps is usually loaded from other locations on the web (such as a tile server).
|Visualization and journalism||Global Migration|
|Real-time information||Earth Weather||Figure .|
|Real-Time Transport Location|
|Real-Time Flight Locations|
|Stuff in Space|
|Global Forest Watch|
|Catalog and search||Earth Data Search|
|Computational tools||Google Maps|
|geojson.io||see Section 7.3.1|
|mapshaper||see Section 7.3.2|
|Reporting and collaboration||OpenStreetMap|
The availability of code-free, graphical interfaces for making sophisticated web maps remains an ongoing goal for the web mapping community. Several platforms now provide straightforward interactive interfaces for building and publishing web maps and web mapping applications, such as -
A more customizable, programmatic approach for building web maps is available through scripting languages such as R and Python. Both languages have libraries that give the ability to build web maps, using few lines of code and incorporating data from the user environment -
0.4 Learning objectives
By the end of this book, you will be able to -
- Build and publish basic websites and web maps
- Connect you web map to a database to display large amounts of data
- Include client-side geoprocessing functionality in a web map
- Gain an understanding on how the web works, and a starting point for learning more
Throughout the book will make use of the following software components, which are freely available on the web -
- A plain text editor, such as -
- A modern web browser -
- Web developer tools (built into Chrome and Firefox)
- A local web server (built into Python, other options are available)
0.6 Background knowledge
 “The course assumes familiarity with Geographic Information System (GIS), and ability to edit vector layers (e.g. Shapefiles) in desktop GIS software such as ArcGIS or QGIS. This is mainly important for working on the Projects, where you are expected to prepare your own spatial layers for displaying them on web maps.”
0.7 Online version
The online version of this book is freely provided, with agreement from the publisher, at the following address -
In addition to the content of the printed version, the online version includes downloadable code and data files for all examples, as well as an additional appendix with instructions for setting up an SQL API (see Section 9.2.2).
I thank the creators and contributors of the open-source tools used in this book (Table .).