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The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XLI-B4, 2016

XXIII ISPRS Congress, 12–19 July 2016, Prague, Czech Republic

ERAS OF WEB MAPPING DEVELOPMENTS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
Bert Veenendaal

Department of Spatial Sciences, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, Australia – b.veenendaal@curtin.edu.au

Commission IV, WG IV/5

KEY WORDS: Web mapping, Web GIS, Web development, Geoweb, Online mapping, Map use, Mapping generations

ABSTRACT:

Developments in web mapping and web based geographic information systems (GIS) have evolved rapidly over the past two
decades. What began as online map images available to a small group of geospatial experts and professionals has developed to a
comprehensive and interactive web map based on integrated information from multiple sources and manipulated by masses of users
globally. This paper introduces a framework that outlines the eras of web mapping and significant developments among those eras.
From this framework, some of the influences and trends can be determined, particularly those in relation to the development of
technologies and their relation to the growth in the number and diversity of users and applications that utilise web mapping and
geospatial information online.

1. INTRODUCTION mapping and GIS continue to evolve and propagate, new
influences and trends may become apparent. Further, the
1.1 General Overview description of technologies and influences described in this
paper are not exhaustive, but rather are the main significant
Since the beginnings of the Web and the first World Wide Web ones and indicative of the important developments.
conference in 1994, the interactions among and between
information and people have evolved dramatically. The Web is 2. BACKGROUND AND DEVELOPMENTS
not simply a developing technology for content, but involves
people who generate content, communicate and interact in 2.1 Characterisations of web mapping developments
collaborative environments (Hall & Tiropanis, 2012). New user
needs evolve and technology needs to develop to meet these A number of attempts have been made to capture web mapping
needs, in turn generating more needs and an iterative cycle of developments. This is mostly done with regards to technology
technology development and user/application growth and improvements at either a broad generic level or specifically
expansion. linking to prominent technology initiatives.

Geospatial data and mapping have been instrumental in fuelling In terms of its development, the web generally has been
the use of the Web to support people and information identified by various authors through the use of four generations
interactions (Li et. al., 2011). Of course, the Web has also termed Web 1.0 to Web 4.0 (and beyond) (Fu & Sun, 2011;
played a foundational role in the provision of online mapping Choudhury, 2014). These are identified in Table 1. Web 1.0
and web GIS. defined the first era of read webs, focussed on retrieving
information. They used the basic HTTP and HTML
Understanding the developments in web mapping and the technologies to disseminate online linked information according
influence on technology, information and users is important for to the vision of Berners-Lee (1998). Web 2.0 is a read-write
a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides a means of web where users can interact collaboratively for content
understanding the multi-faceted nature of web mapping and creation, modification and sharing (O’Reilly, 2005). Web 3.0 is
GIS developments. Secondly, it provides a basis to be able to also known as the semantic web and focusses on enabling
identify trends and relationships among the various web machine understanding of semantically structured data that
mapping and related developments to understand the influences provides users with more meaning and relevant information
and drivers. Finally, it provides a means to identify possible (Berners-Lee et. al., 2001; Palmer, 2001). Choudbury (2014)
future opportunities, developments and directions. describes Web 4.0 as the ultra-intelligent agent that makes
decisions as powerful as the brain to enable collaboration
1.2 Aim and scope among communities. Although there are various attempts at
describing Web 5.0, it remains essentially undefined and
This paper reviews and explores the development of web speculative.
mapping and GIS and how it has been characterised. A
framework for identifying the significant developments and eras In one of the earliest textbooks on the Internet and GIS, Peng &
in web mapping is developed and detailed. The progression of Tsou (2003) describe the web developments for GIS from a
developments along these web mapping eras are then technology perspective (Table 1). They identify static map
highlighted with a view towards identifying the future publishing with the initial use of HTML and static images for
directions and significance of web mapping and GIS. maps. Static web mapping expands the developments with
HTML Forms and CGI. Then follows interactive web mapping
Because of the fast moving nature of web, mapping and GIS using Dynamic HTML, scripts, plug-ins, ActiveX, Java applets
technologies, it is acknowledged that such a framework is a and servlets, where the user interaction exists but is limited.
work in progress. As the developments and usage of web

This contribution has been peer-reviewed.
doi:10.5194/isprsarchives-XLI-B4-247-2016 247

They are maps value. identified as the third major change by Tsou (2005). RIA refers to the web programming environment that provides a friendly user interface and access to powerful widgets and tools (eg. Volume XLI-B4. namely AJAX and developments involving virtual globes. then was transformed three dimensional Earth. which provide primary focus of the developments (see Table 1). worldwide via the Internet. 2016 XXIII ISPRS Congress.0 to create the Xerox PARC map server (Xerox. The Organisations must adopt an appropriate vision with adequate first generation maps are static maps such as those pioneered by support to adequately embrace and utilise Web 2. the result is that Table 1: Various characterisations of web mapping knowledge and interest in places of experience become the developments in the literature realm of the average citizen. open service application programming interfaces (APIs) which could be accessed and combined with user contributed data in In fact. Events in 2005 such as the South Asia Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina 2. he identified three significant web maps and location-based tools. As Plewe (2007) points out. Java Scripts and Adobe FLEX). occurrence of major disaster events on the other hand. Firstly. where the organisation has developed a culture and initiatives involving interaction and The third generation web mapping was spurred on by the democracy. further than information and people. Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry. expanded well beyond the small group of web developers and mapping experts. Although only their information and knowledge about maps and location via focussing on the year 2005. which now include. The next generation comprises dynamic HTML benefits and take advantage of new opportunities. they development of the Asynchronous Javascript and XML (AJAX) have obtained better value and performance in adopting Web technology which improved response times. rich internet applications (RIA) and crowdsourcing. users can access cloud computing resources and services. GIS awareness grew community are not only consumers of geospatial information significantly among the general community fuelled by the and maps. developments to support shared data online. all highlight technology events. The development and influence of the geospatial web goes well beyond only individuals. Following on from Plewe’s (2007) four generations of web mapping. Firstly.5194/isprsarchives-XLI-B4-247-2016 248 . The expanding global user community means not only web maps for users. the users with a more realistic and immersive experience with a web appeared as the Web of documents. Hall & Finally. the types of technologies underpinning the map (Table 1). There is a strong emphasis on user culture that must embedded in HTML files with simple click access via grow alongside technology developments in order to reap the hyperlinks. Amazon’s cloud storage and web services. Tsou (2011) described a fifth generation built on cloud computing.2 User and usage focus of web mapping alerted the global community to the importance of using The generations of web mapping. they have a role to contribute and share their own services. In this way. The ability to generate maps Corba . However. Crowdsourcing. the distributed GIServices period enhances interactivity services with global coverage of digital imagery opened up the by allowing components on clients to communicate with geospatial world of mapping to the public community components on servers using technologies such as Java Applets. Seo and Lee maps using Java and ActiveX with the map interfaces starting (2016) compared and analysed a number of large organisations to appear similar to GIS interfaces at that time. adopt Web 2. but also producers that contribute to the shared release of free satellite imagery on the one hand.0. but more for the development of virtual globes and online mapping importantly.0 technology on organisations. In general. there is also a recognition among these authors that there is an A second significant development in 2005 highlighted by Tsou increasing focus on users. 12–19 July 2016. These technologies formed the foundation that they can retrieve and share information. the fourth generation was focussed on the virtual earth Tiropanis (2012) identify stages of Web evolution based on the globes such as Google Earth and Microsoft Bing. knowledge to add the vast web based geospatial and mapping Included in this change were also the wireless location based resources base that exists. also referred to as volunteered geographic Tsou (2005) approached the evolving world of web mapping by information (VGI). Prague.0 technologies. 1993). This made way for 2. as identified by the authors mapping and GIS technology to manage and respond to such referred to in Section 2. the user developments (Table 1). doi:10.Net and XML (Peng & Tsou.0. 2003). especially in later technological (2005) was two new internet technologies.1. However. and by knowledge of our world. crowd-sourcing and image tiling. in essence the principles underlying Web 2. Czech Republic Finally. is where volunteers can contribute and share highlighting the major technology changes. services resulting in mobile access to GIS and mapping technologies. It goes to the heart of people interactions and engagements at a global level. for example. the focus on web mapping developments goes even the generation of mashups. in terms of their technological and organisational readiness to functionality was limited to map browsing and simple queries. Microsoft Azure cloud and Esri’s ArcGIS Online. Seo and Lee (2016) focus on the Plewe (2007) identifies four generations of web maps based on influence of Web 2. The advent of these first public web into a Web of people and now is developing as the Web of data This contribution has been peer-reviewed. both focussed at increasing the response times of RIAs. Rather than focussing on obtaining sufficient hardware resources and downloading desktop software. no matter where in the world they are located.

where the last era has also information. In the context of web map use. etc. and therefore supports and encourages the uptake The developments in web mapping are a continuous blend of of the online environment. They require access to 3. WEB MAPPING ERAS similar functionality in a recognised and friendly environment tailored to their purpose of use. this includes The first is the virtual globes development beginning with the community mapping. Figure 2: Framework of web mapping eras Figure 1: Web mapping developments supporting web map use (Source: Veenendaal. namely has also had to go through several stages of evolution. doi:10. developments is very difficult. improvements in technologies. 2015) The static mapping era refers to essentially the beginning of Web 1. increase in data and information. basic online maps. al. Figure 2 names and namely. touch screen events. used for common geospatial information searches in academic libraries. The design of maps now had to that the development of technologies such as CSS. The approximate commencement of that era.1 Unfolding of web mapping eras have similar functionality and interfaces to the desktop GIS environments. No “end” of an era is Web 2. commonplace among the global community users among which Attempts to track and understand these developments. been extended to include very recent and future developments. Whereas previous authors identified levels and expectations of public users in order to promote and between 3 to 5 distinctive eras or developments. They did a usability study across six applications and The web mapping eras chosen were based on an integration and identified 8 core web GIS functions. and a star indicating the users to retrieve and share mapping data and information. timeline to mark significant developments. Users This contribution has been peer-reviewed. Prague. many of these GIS and mapping functionalities are becoming growth in users and usage. Steiniger and Hunter (2013) concluded user-friendly touch screens.. important when people move from a desktop environment into the internet and cloud environment.0 interactive mapping and provides a summary of each era. They conclude that web extension of the developments and eras identified by previous mapping development needs to strongly address the experience authors (refer to Table 1). For example. Czech Republic and social networks. Through their exposure on the web. The advent of online maps enabled developments within that era. a significant influence on further developments. Tsou the people to people interactions around information and (2011) identifies two waves of the web map design revolution. So in the geospatial context. whether they (2015) were able to identify a range of web GIS functionalities be technologies. we have enhance interactions and experiences with geospatial reassembled them into eight eras. defined as many of these developments have either continued or but contribute to the map and the knowledge it was been embedded in subsequent eras. We have tried to assemble the web mapping eras so that significant developments across this With enhanced functionality comes also the need to ensure that blend of interactions are identified. 12–19 July 2016. performance of web maps was aligned to an improved user interface that was more user-centered and dynamic in the user’s Of course. these interactions and collaborations are very much interaction with the map. location-based and mobile activities. The web GIS environments 3. HTML 5 enabled applications on web browsers to have the and filtering of only relevant and useful map content within the same functionality as those on desktop computers. a short list of the significant virtual globes (Figure 1). 2005). Web 2. Web mapping development of mobile mapping on smart phones and mobile technology supports ability of people and information to devices that incorporated GPS location tracking together with interact. AJAX and accommodate the smaller screen displays. Veenendaal (2015) identified Eight web mapping eras were identified and placed in a three relevant and influential web mapping developments. communicating. This is subsequent proliferation of web map apps. The second wave was the supported by the technology developments. The significant diverse users in the global community with a range of skills and developments have been chosen on the basis that they have had experiences are able to utilize these functions. knowledge. The improved dynamic processes and interactions in geographic context.0 developments enabled users to not only use the map. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry. Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. The virtual globe developments enhanced that user interaction by growing the user base and generating a much more immersive environment to stimulate user engagement and collaboration.5194/isprsarchives-XLI-B4-247-2016 249 . and interaction among all of these. usage or interaction. So the latter transition of the Web is Closely related to web map usability is web map design which focussed on a stronger link involving people and data. Kong et. Volume XLI-B4.0 in the early 1990s where the phenomena of a web map was realised through an HTML image and hyperlinks. information. let alone geospatial information and maps are just another information trying to predict the future directions of research and resource. 2016 XXIII ISPRS Congress. release of Google Earth in 2005 (Google.

improving the realistic earth imagery brought the world to the desktop like no response times to data requests (dynamic. the user experiences no wait time appropriate context: geographic. location based services (LBS) visualised. 2005). the digital globe information scope to the user needs. encapsulate the fact that what information is being provided to users/applications must be done in a smarter way. more users to participate in both mapping retrieval and data Although still evolving and being defined. software. cloud). social Once multiple users started to share a web map. The user base interactive). with the cloud Gateway Interface (CGI). Now storage. other previous mapping application ever did. Emerging platforms. It has also components with well-defined interfaces to facilitate a flexible provided a platform to manage and manipulate Big Data which and interoperable environment.0 developments (refer to Section 2.NET. options and layout of the map. components. like the open source Hadoop. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry. Prague. These components were is a characteristic of the growing volumes of geospatial data assembled as web services within a service-oriented being collected through sensors and mobile devices (Lee & architecture (SOA) that could be published. etc. the ability to provide content linked to location users with the ability to interact with mapping information from This contribution has been peer-reviewed. essentially anyone who has an internet connection (which is now almost everyone in the world!). 2015). applications. This era is part of Tsou’s (2011) fifth generation web mapping technology providing Now that various map construction functions were occurring at resource pooling.5194/isprsarchives-XLI-B4-247-2016 250 . The interactive web mapping era equates with Tsou’s (2005) second significant development and Plewe’s (2007) third The intelligent web mapping era embraces semantic generation web maps. This era their own local data and knowledge. there needed to be a way to from which mapping applications and databases can be built. Czech Republic had some simple choices to select specified parameters enhanced the capacity for global users to contribute and share regarding the content. Java and ActiveX technologies providing a solution. mobile. temporal. interactive. 12–19 July 2016. Not only do the web mapping eras define technology and access to data. Now. Volunteered geographic is equivalent to Plewe’s (2007) first generation web maps. digital globe). Common scalability of increasing masses of information. . semantic. This fed into the generation of users beyond the paper-based map. the expansion of the digital earth technologies as well as CORBA.0 developments and opened the way for semantic web and Web 3. NASA World Wind and a host of additional virtual technological development that primarily defines that era. This era also encompasses the the start of the Web 2. were used to create replaceable complex geospatial applications (Yang et al. the emerging technologies to provide an environment in which the user could experience an immersive experience in Earth 3. Microsoft Virtual Earth (now Each of the web mapping eras identified have a significant BING). The emergence of Google Earth. component-based technologies such as Java Applets. matching the Arguably one of the most significant events. 2016 XXIII ISPRS Congress. (interactive. services and enabled users to retrieve maps that were dynamically created infrastructure can be provided on the web in the cloud. Being able to filter web mapping era. Digital globes have exploited the benefits of usage of better knowledge and decision-making ability. information (VGI) became integrated into many mobile (and Being able to store and retrieve a (traditional) map on the web desktop) apps so that users became both consumers and was a major step in being able to share maps with multiple producers of information. The earth platforms. and being able to navigate through a 3D landscape developed to provide users with geospatial and mapping with adequate performance in terms of response times information directly linked to their location and locality. selecting the information to be into mobile phones and devices. Devaraju et al. provide a distributed and parallel computing environment to perform geospatial big data analytics. but they also have a strong focus on users and their The next wave of web mapping followed closely on the heels of ability to use geospatial and mapping information. With the development of GPS and location integrated the purposes of customising it.. stability and scalability for choices. blogs. era was significant for giving multiple users access to an online users could interact with maps at whatever place and time they shared map. digital globe. intelligent) and enabling data generation developers and professionals to the global community. (2014) explore how (Tsou. 2011). “package” the functions for users. providing a richer interface for data access (digital suddenly expanded exponentially from specialist geospatial globe. communities linking to and utilising a host of related technologies including mashups. For example. Cloud computing supports era. The emerging image tiling technology technologies and smart devices that provide context and combined with AJAX technology allowed online maps to be customisation to the information delivered to users and delivered to a user in a continuous and responsive manner. The mobile era provides same time. wikis. The static digital globes by providing web maps on mobile devices. etc. this era tries to creation activities.1). doi:10. Dynamic maps using DHTML. It also marked from sensor observation data.2 Discussion imagery. Users then were able to interact with the map for chose. not only in 2D but also in a 3D environment. In the services web mapping integrated and shared on the web. has opened up the power of mapping to the information in an intelligent fashion leads the creation and global community. Volume XLI-B4. This era is still presently in its early stages. mobile. This increased the focus on the user experience to derive understanding and knowledge of geospatial events and paved the way for the next web mapping era. attributed. intelligent). discovered on the web. virtualised applications and a shared platform different servers across the Internet. applications and users. it was obvious networking and shared atlas/mapping portals. At the (dynamic. with While the downloading of image tiles occurs in the background the goal to provide only relevant information to users in the in an asynchronous fashion. The digital globe interfaces and providing a shared platform (static. that the digital technology could be used to customise the map in some dynamic way to cater for the various users The cloud web mapping era focusses on the availability and requirements. Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. have exposed maps and digital earth imagery to technology then influences the accessibility to data by the common every-day citizen. invoked and Kang. while viewing a continuously refreshing and emerging image historical. and constructed on the server according to user preferences and providing a measure of reliability. information.

integrated. context. A. specific covenants on Fu. 2012. sewerage. as well personal history. J. paving the way for further technology development to meet those needs. The Neogeography of the GeoWeb. tourism. aspect of current developments in the eighth web mapping era Haklay. Web GIS: Principles and applications. Scientific American. and appropriate geo-processing services to Feature%20Article_%20The%20Semantic%20Web_%20May% manipulate and filter the data to suit the user profile and 202001. This contribution has been peer-reviewed.pdf (23 Feb 2012). the user base expanded from the order of thousands to essentially billions in a very short time. the effect on users has been significant. pp 2011-2039. water. 12–19 July 2016. Further proliferation of users. the appropriate data involving roads. to users and applications of health. it has means there will need to be a greater level of semantics defined expanded beyond the traditional realm of the likes of land and representation of knowledge so that automated or semi- managers.html (25 May 2015). Elsevier. 2005. & J. To use the example. the digital globe era witnessed the recognise greater opportunities.com. 2011.com/w/page/f/ 4.. economics. Web Mapping 2. T. ESRI Press. focussed to their significant as it opened up geospatial data and web maps to a needs and customised to their level of knowledge and skills. and semantically linking them together so that queries and http://googlepress. That also community of users including the general public.0: of intelligent (refer Figure 2). so that they can be linked and queried in diverse datasets that must be accommodated and integrated the context of users. 2016 XXIII ISPRS Congress. This Google. however. May. 1998. Volume XLI-B4. 2001. Sun. Web evolution and main developments that have influenced the growth of Web Science. For example. finance. drainage. pp. and new requirements are formed. 2016). the most significant impact of web mapping as seen growth in the numbers of users and their usage of web maps and through the eras is the dissemination of the web map to a huge geospatial information has increased prolifically. As usage increases. The intelligent web mapping era is still an era in progress and This proliferation of users and applications has implications for yet early in development.w3. Hendler.0+The+Neogeography+of+the+GeoWeb.fr/acacia/cours/essi2006/Scientific%20American_%20 resources. etc. Parker. linked. queries without having to navigate extensively through a web map. users will expert users and developers. http://week9neogeog. protected lands and easements. Google Inc. the land.pdf (21 Nov 2015). Lassila. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Web+Mapping+2. This era is itself still being defined as web mapping and GIS developments. refined and presented to the land developer in the context of appropriate terminology. Secondly. Further. education. doi:10. 2008. natural resources management and infrastructure automated decisions can be made about how the information is developers. there must be a Web. The Semantic To deliver that “relevant information”. Computer Networks. Firstly. http://www- discovery and integration of all necessary information sop. The World Wide Web: A very short infrastructures and services running through that land. the expansion of users and the increase in geospatial data and mapping usage. That exposure was very Users continually want better information. 56. Berners-Lee. a land developer may be exploring the REFERENCES development potential of a particular block of land. 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