Current Trends in Vector-Based Internet
Mapping: A Technical Review
Christophe Lienert, Bernhard Jenny, Olaf Schnabel, and Lorenz Hurni
Abstract Possibilities and limitations of Internet cartography software largely
depend on the pace set by the software industry. The variety of commercial and
non-commercial software caters for the needs of a continuously growing mapping
community, including both professional and amateur cartographers. This chapter
provides an overview of state-of-the-art technologies for vector-based Web-
mapping as of the beginning of 2011. Both proprietary and open format
technologies are discussed for vector data rendering in browsers, highlighting
their advantages and disadvantages. The discussed technologies are Adobe Flash,
Microsoft Silverlight, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), JavaFX, Canvas, and
WebGL. The chapter also discusses client and server side frameworks which
provide Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for creating custom interactive
maps, mainly by overlaying raster images with vector data.
Internet maps are the major form of spatial information delivery, as the Internet is
today the primary medium for the transmission and dissemination of maps
(Peterson 2008). For map authors, the maze of available techniques for creating
and distributing Web maps is overwhelming, while authoring tools for Web-maps
meeting the demands of high-quality cartography are difﬁcult to ﬁnd. Map authors
may choose between GIS and graphics software products to create maps for the
Internet, but these off-the-shelve maps oftentimes fall short of effectively convey-
ing information. There are three main reasons for this shortcoming: (a) the design of
these maps sometimes does not take into account the speciﬁc limitations of digital
displays (Jenny et al., 2008); (b) the maps are often restricted in using standard
C. Lienert (*)
Landscape and Waters, Canton of Aargau, 5001 Aarau, Switzerland
M.P. Peterson (ed.), Online Maps with APIs and WebServices,
Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography,
DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-27485-5_3, #Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012
functionality provided by the authoring software; and (c) they do not take full
advantage of interactive features available in modern Web-browsers. Not only is
the situation of available products confusing and overwhelming, there are also out-
of-date technologies, which are not developed further. Likewise, some of the new
technologies are characterized by short life cycles: they have disappeared as fast as
they have arrived on the scene.
In comparison to raster-based maps, vector graphics formats offer a series of
advantages for interactive mapping: (a) They are scalable without loss of informa-
tion or graphical artefacts; (b) the symbolization is adjustable on-the-ﬂy (e.g., line
width, transparency, ﬁll color); (c) the geometry and symbolization can be ani-
mated; (d) map features can be shown and hidden without regenerating and
reloading the entire map; (e) attributes can be attached to each individual map
feature; (f) map features, such as diagrams, can be generated on-the-ﬂy; and (g) the
geometry can be changed, allowing for lossless projection to other coordinate
systems (Schnabel and Hurni 2009).
In this chapter, we conﬁne ourselves to the description and assessment of current
technologies for vector-based mapping on the Internet. Raster-based Web-mapping
is not part of this chapter, and only cross-platform and cross-browser technologies
are treated. The chapter refers to the state-of-the-art as of the beginning of 2011 and
the discussed technologies relate to the most current browser versions, i.e., Mozilla
Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 9, Apple Safari 5, Opera 11, and Google Chrome 8.
3.2 Browser Technology for Vector Data Rendering
Vector mapping is based on vector graphics which use geometrical primitives such
as points, lines, curves, or polygons. These primitives, in turn, are all based on
mathematical equations. Base technologies for vector mapping may be deﬁned as
technology, or software, or even entire application programming interfaces (API),
which are capable of creating, editing, and extending such vector-based graphics
for the Web. The graphic objects may be changed by editing the geometry infor-
mation and the graphical attributes. Afﬁne transformation operators allow for
stretching, twisting, and rotating the objects.
The most current and established vector technologies for the Web are presented
in this section. Both the associated authoring tools and the way vector content is
provided to the user are discussed. A distinction in proprietary and open-source
software is made since considerable differences exist as to business and develop-
ment models. An open-source approach allows for the extraction and further
modiﬁcation of vector graphics objects, or even for the technical advancement of
authoring and rendering software. Proprietary source code, in contrast, is mostly
delivered in a compiled binary form and is therefore non human-readable. Table 3.1
shows an overview of base technologies for vector mapping.
Java Applets and Vector Markup Language (VML) technology are not discussed
in this article. Due to their complex programming environment, Java Applets are
24 C. Lienert et al.
comparatively little used to produce vector-based maps (Byrne et al., 2010).
JavaFX is a modern alternative for the Java environment providing similar graphi-
cal capabilities, and discussed in this chapter. VML is deemed out-dated since it is a
rejected World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard and is only supported by
Internet Explorer (Zaslavsky 2003).
3.2.1 Proprietary Technology
The business models of software companies producing proprietary technologies
and software are, by and large, based on licensing. Customers purchase a number of
licenses which have to be renewed annually, or for each update. Usually, not the
vector rendering technology itself is licensed, but auxiliary tools for creating the
Proprietary technologies and associated authoring tools are geared towards the
designer community creating Web-based content, as well as programmers using
various frameworks and code libraries for the development of Web applications.
The two most widely used proprietary products are Adobe Flash and Microsoft
Silverlight. They both provide high-performance authoring tools for graphic
designers and programmers.
220.127.116.11 Adobe Flash
Originally developed by Macromedia, Adobe Flash was designed for animated
Web-based vector graphics. Adobe’s marketing targets graphic designers and
authors of Rich Internet Applications (RIA). This orientation is reﬂected in the
development of new tools, with Flash/Flex being the most well-known for applica-
tion development (Noble and Anderson 2008). Currently, the cross-platform and
cross-browser framework Flex comprises MXML (an XML-based vector graphics
dering, either the Flash browser plug-in, or the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) for
desktop applications. MXML is capable of describing various graphical user
Table 3.1 Base technologies for Web-based vector mapping
Technology/software Company/consortium Authoring tools Format
Flash/Flex Adobe Flash Builder, Flash Professional Proprietary
XAML/Silverlight Microsoft Expression Blend, Visual Studio Proprietary
SVG W3C Illustrator, Corel Draw, Inkscape,
JavaFX Oracle/Sun NetBeans, Eclipse Open
Canvas WHATWG/W3C – Open
WebGL Khronos Group – Open
3 Current Trends in Vector-Based Internet Mapping: A Technical Review 25
interface (GUI) components and vector objects. In addition, raster graphics, ﬁlter
effects, videos, sound, animations etc. can be deﬁned with MXML. User interaction
can be realized with custom MXML ActionScript code.
Various authoring programs allow for the generation of Adobe Flash content.
For designers, Adobe provides the visual design environment Flash Professional,
while programmers draw on the tools from Adobe Flash Builder. In a typical
workﬂow, either an MXML ﬁle is created using Adobe Flash Builder, or FLA
ﬁles and/or ActionScript classes are created using Adobe Flash Professional. The
resulting ﬁles are then compiled to a binary SWF ﬁle and presented with the Flash
plug-in or the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR).
Advantages of the Flash framework include the performant rendering engine, the
integration of multimedia content (e.g., video, sound and animation), a wide range
of auxiliary tools for designers, and the wide-spread dissemination of the Flash
Player for rendering Flash content. Adobe claims Flash Player is installed on more
than 98% of Internet-enabled desktops worldwide (source: adobe.com/products/
ﬂashplayer/faq). Among the disadvantages of Adobe Flash, there are the depen-
dency on one software vendor who may arbitrarily change the code base or the
functionality of tools and plug-ins. Also, security concerns are raised when using a
plug-in, particularly in regard to arbitrary, remote code execution and passing on of
cached user information (Bradbury 2010).
Yet, Flash remains popular in the graphics industry. Typical use cases include
games and multimedia graphics with animation or video, advertisement banners,
and RIAs of varying complexity. Due to its wide dissemination, GIS and Web-
mapping applications feature built-in map export functionalities compatible with
Adobe Flash Player. An example is ESRI’s ArcGIS API for Flex on top of the
ArcGIS Server, which allows map authors to design customized interactive Web-
maps, with options to edit or query data, and integrate temporal data.
18.104.22.168 Microsoft Silverlight
Microsoft’s counterpart of Adobe Flash, the cross-platform and cross-browser
Silverlight framework, consists of an XML-based vector graphics description
language, known as XAML, which may be manipulated by various programming
Microsoft .NET framework, particularly the Windows Presentation Foundation
(WPF). The necessary browser plug-in is available for Windows and Mac OS X
and is installed on 50% of desktop computers worldwide (source: riastats.com).
Two authoring tools are available from Microsoft for generating Silverlight
content: The visual authoring environment Microsoft Expression Blend for
designers and the code-based Microsoft Visual Studio for programmers. In a typical
workﬂow, a XAML ﬁle is created with Expression Blend or Visual Studio, com-
piled to a binary XAP ﬁle, and then presented in the browser by means of the
26 C. Lienert et al.
The performant rendering engine, the integration of multimedia content, and the
availability of auxiliary tools for programmers are the main advantages of the
Silverlight framework. The disadvantage in terms of the dependency on one single
software vendor is similar to Adobe Flash.
Silverlight is suitable for programmers experienced with the Microsoft Windows
.NET framework. It is supported by various development tools and Microsoft’s
dominant market position adds to its successful diffusion. Typical use cases include
business applications. ESRI, traditionally closely connected to Microsoft, supports
Silverlight with a separate API for creating interactive maps.
3.2.2 Open Standards
Open-source software is freely available and users may directly contribute to its
enhancement by extending speciﬁc functionalities and publishing new code. In this
section, four open-source technologies are discussed: Scalable Vector Graphic
(SVG), Oracle/Sun JavaFX, WHATWG/W3C Canvas, and WebGL.
22.214.171.124 Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)
SVG is a XML format for vector graphics. SVG is a recommended standard of the
W3C consortium that all modern Web-browsers draw without the use of a plug-in,
including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer (as from version 9), Opera and Safari.
However, the level of SVG support considerably varies between the different
browsers. The SVG speciﬁcation includes vector and raster graphics, ﬁlter effects,
point symbols, masking, animation, and many other features (Neumann and Winter
graphics and graphical user interfaces.
Among the applications capable of creating SVG content are Adobe Illustrator,
Inkscape, Xara Extreme, and Open Ofﬁce Draw for designers, or different XML
editors for programmers. In a typical workﬂow, an SVG ﬁle is created containing
The main advantages of SVG are the direct support in browsers, and the large
variety of vector elements and visual effects. Another major advantage is the
possibility to use multiple coordinate systems in a single drawing, which makes
the SVG standard attractive for mapping applications: map features are based
on native geographic coordinates, while user interface elements use screen
The disadvantages of SVG are the sub-optimal support for multimedia, and the
slow rendering. This issue is currently addressed by browser authors. Internet
Explorer 9, for example, will introduce hardware accelerated SVG rendering.
3 Current Trends in Vector-Based Internet Mapping: A Technical Review 27
JavaFX, now developed by Oracle, is a cross-platform and cross-browser framework
for the development of Rich Internet Applications (RIA). It is based on the Java
Runtime Environment, which is installed on about 75% of desktop computers
worldwide (source: http://riastats.com). The tools needed for generating JavaFX
content are NetBeans or Eclipse, both Integrated Development Environments (IDE)
for experienced programmers. In a typical workﬂow, JavaFX code is compiled to
Java bytecode and saved to a JNLP or JAR ﬁle. These ﬁles are then passed to the
browser and executed using the Java Runtime Environment or Java Micro Edition on
Among the advantages of the JavaFX framework are the integration of Java
drawing classes, and the thorough security concept. However, starting up the
JavaFX plug-in is slower than starting up Silverlight or Flash. Another major
disadvantages are missing tools for designers. Integrating multimedia elements,
such as video and sound, is possible; but owing to the lack of authoring tools,
JavaFX is mainly used by experienced programmers. Being an open-source frame-
work with a thorough security concept, JavaFX comes into play for developing
large business applications in which maps may be an integral part. However, for
Web applications, it is currently not as widely used as is Flash or Silverlight. It
should also be noted that with the release of JavaFX 2, the hitherto recommended
JavaFX scripting language will not be developed any further.
primitives (e.g., rectangles, paths, text). The Canvas version for drawing 2D
graphics is standardized by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working
Group (WHATWG) and will be part of the upcoming HTLM5 speciﬁcation.
HTML5 is the next major revision of the HTML standard, which is currently
under development by the W3C (Mansﬁeld-Devine 2010). No browser plug-in is
required to render Canvas elements, as it is already implemented in Chrome,
Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Canvas is combinable with other
Web standards, but it represents a lower conceptual protocol level than, for exam-
ple, SVG, as it is not based on a built-in scene graph or a Document Object Model
(DOM). Drawing commands are not converted to graphical features for later access
the pixels of the generated image. After rendering vector data, only the individual
Currently, no mature graphic authoring tools exist for Web designers to create
Canvas drawings. Content is therefore mainly created by programmers using text
28 C. Lienert et al.
editors and custom-made code. In a typical workﬂow, a HTML ﬁle is extended with
embedded into the HTML ﬁle or stored in separate ﬁles. The browser automatically
In the future, Canvas has a considerable potential to compete established vector
data rendering technologies, such as Adobe Flash. The main advantages of the
Canvas element are the support by all browsers, the fast rendering, and its options
for raster data manipulation. The major disadvantage is the missing scene graph,
which complicates linking with event handlers for interactive graphics, and which
may considerably increase complexity when dealing with a large number of
complex graphical primitives.
WebGL is a 3D graphics API for Web applications that extends the HTML Canvas
element. The speciﬁcation is currently a work in progress, and implementations are
not yet ﬁnalized. WebGL is speciﬁed by the non-proﬁt technology consortium
Khronos Group, which controls various open standards, for example, the OpenGL
standard for rendering 3D graphics.
Similar to the 2D variant of Canvas, three-dimensional drawing with WebGL is
computer’s graphics card via the platform-independent OpenGL API which entails
a very high rendering performance. WebGL uses the OpenGL ES 2.0 standard, a
subset of OpenGL, which is also supported by devices with limited computing
power, such as smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices. WebGL
rendering is based on shader programs that calculate rendering effects on graphics
hardware with a high degree of ﬂexibility.
WebGL is not yet part of Web-browsers for end users. However, developer
versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari contain experimental implementations. As
a consequence, WebGL is currently mainly applied by programmers and early
adopters for experimental applications.
Various scripting libraries are available to create WebGL content or for loading
3D objects that are designed with 3D modeling software (e.g., Autodesk 3ds Max).
The advantages of WebGL include very fast rendering, and the versatility
offered by shader programs for graphical special effects. Due to its early develop-
ment status and owing to the lack of authoring tools, expert programmers are the
exclusive user group of WebGL. Another disadvantage is the lack of support by
Internet Explorer. However, WebGL has a considerable potential for both 2D and
3D map visualization.
3 Current Trends in Vector-Based Internet Mapping: A Technical Review 29
3.3 Vector Overlay for Client-Side Mapping
In the previous section, independent general-purpose vector-based Internet standards
are discussed. The standards are implemented in Web-browsers, or require additional
plug-ins. The discussion is now moving towards a higher abstraction level, i.e.,
frameworks and APIs for mapping which build on these standards. Such client-side
frameworks and interfaces offer additional functionality for cartographic applications,
and encapsulate and further abstract the underlying visualization standards.
Client-side frameworks are widely used, since they greatly facilitate the creation
of vector-based Web maps allowing cartographers to focus on their core compe-
tency in design and data visualization. The concept of such toolkits is to provide an
API that allows map authors to create so-called mash-ups. Such maps usually
combine a raster map in the background with custom, overlaid vector data. Often,
the default graphical user interface provided by the API for manipulating the map is
also customized, either by using functionality of the mapping framework, or by
integrating specialized external libraries. The list below shows the most popular
toolkits for generating map mash-ups.
The Google Maps API, the Microsoft Virtual Earth/Bing Maps API, and the
Yahoo! Maps API offer similar functionality. They provide access to a multi-scale
worldwide raster map, and a specialized graphical user interface for navigating the
map contents. A wide range of functionalities and services are available for data
integration and map drawing.
OpenLayers is a GUI and a customization tool for combining raster and vector
browsers, without any server-side dependencies. Unlike Google’s, Microsoft’s or
Yahoo!’s APIs, the OpenLayers API is entirely free and open-source. It is often
used in combination with OpenStreetMap, a freely editable map of the world.
The carto.net framework is for SVG based maps. By means of a programm-
ing language and the DOM (Document Object Model), SVG documents are
manipulated. The DOM allows any Web-enabled programming language to
for these manipulations.
CartoWeb (www.cartoweb.org) and p.Mapper are two frameworks running on
MapServer, which is discussed in the next section. A graphical user interface and
and PHP MapScript on the server-side.
3.4 Vector Overlay for Server-Side Mapping
Web-map servers used to be restricted to raster-based output. Raster functionality
includes the tiling of data, the conversion of data to various formats, or the
resampling of raster images using different down- or up-scaling operators.
30 C. Lienert et al.
Nowadays, Web-map servers are increasingly able to produce vector graphics
formats. The concept is much the same as for client-side mapping: vector data are
handled as individual, addressable objects and often overlay background raster
data. Different Web-map servers share common characteristics, such as their
cross-platform and cross-browser capabilities, and their more or less strict support
of Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards. In this section, a selection of
Web map servers are discussed in more details, with emphasis laid on vector
Formerly known as UMN MapServer, MapServer is the most widely used open-
source map server worldwide. It is very popular with a large user community and
with numerous programmers who further develop functionalities and features.
MapServer is able to read data from a variety of enterprise geodatabases, such as
Oracle, IBM DB2, or PostgreSQL via ESRI ArcSDE. It can also read data from
spatial databases, such as Oracle Spatial, PostgreSQL/PostGIS, and from several
GIS ﬁle formats, such as ESRI shapeﬁles. The main cartographic features include
data ﬁltering operations, anti-aliasing, on-the-ﬂy projection, and visualization of
data in form of pie and bar charts. Beside its capability to output raster data
according to Web Map Service (WMS) versions 1.0, 1.1.1, 1.3.0, and Web Cover-
age Service (WCS) versions 1.0, 1.1.x, it also supports vector-based output
standards, such as Geography Markup Language (GML), SVG, PDF, and Web
Feature Service (WFS) version 1.0.0. In order to visualize vector output, the W3C
standard Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD) 1.0.0 may be applied, but usually, users
deﬁne the cartographic symbolization in a so-called mapﬁle. The advantages of
MapServer are its active user community, on-the-ﬂy map projection, and its easy
integration in different Web servers, such as Apache and IIS. The fact that
MapServer does currently not fully support SLD may be viewed as a disadvantage.
3.4.2 QGIS Mapserver
This open-source map server is based on Quantum GIS (QGIS), which is a free and
open-source desktop GIS. It has a rather small, but very active user and developer
community, mainly based in Europe. QGIS mapserver is able to read various data
sources, ranging from ESRI Shapeﬁles to GML, or spatial databases like
PostgreSQL/PostGIS. It features anti-aliasing and visualizes geodata by means of
patterns, point symbols, or pie and bar charts. Beside the raster-based WMS 1.1.1
and 1.3.1 output, QGIS mapserver supports the vector-based output standards
GML (Geography Markup Language), and WFS (Web Feature Service) in combi-
nation with SLD (Styled Layer Descriptor) 1.0.0. The SLD symbolization
3 Current Trends in Vector-Based Internet Mapping: A Technical Review 31
description ﬁle is typically generated using the Quantum GIS desktop application,
or the associated PublishToWeb plug-in.
Among the advantages of QGIS mapserver are the fast rendering, and the
possibility to visualize geodata as diagrams, patterns and point symbols, together
with the full support for SLD. Another advantage is the integration in the
Quantum GIS desktop application, making the functionalities of QGIS mapserver
accessible to a wide user group. A disadvantage remains the small number of active
GeoSever is an entirely Java-based open-source map server. Its worldwide commu-
nity is large and active. GeoServer can handle data directly from most common
spatial databases. PostgreSQL/PostGIS, IBM DB2 with Spatial Extender, Oracle
Spatial, and ArcSDE, as well as standard GIS ﬁle formats such as ESRI Shapeﬁles
are manipulable through GeoServer. Some of the advantageous features are the
ability for anti-aliasing, versioning, and its security concept. Beside the most
current raster-based standard outputs (see above for QGIS mapserver), GeoServer
also exports to the vector formats WFS 1.0 and 1.1, PDF, SVG, KML, GeoRSS
(geocoded Web feeds), as well as GML 2.1.2 and 3.1.1. It also fully supports SLD
to create cartographic symbolization. GeoServer runs predominantly on the Apache
Web server. The support by its active community and by major software companies
is an additional advantage.
3.4.4 ESRI ArcGIS Server
This proprietary and popular map server allows users to link to the ESRI GIS
software portfolio. Using ArcSDE, it handles spatial databases, such as Oracle
Spatial, IBM DB2, and PostgreSQL/PostGIS, as well as a range of GIS ﬁle formats.
Beside anti-aliasing, ﬁltering, and 3D output, it also offers a variety of geo-
processing functionality. ArcGIS Server is able to export raster-based data according
to the most current standards, and also provides vector-based output, such as WFS
1.0 and 1.1, GML 2.0 and 3.1, KML 2.1 and 2.2. For cartographic symbolization,
SLD 1.0 is supported. ESRI ArcGIS Server offers different Web-services, which are,
however, typically conceptualized using the Desktop ArcGIS. The same applies to
the deﬁnition of the cartographic symbolization. Among the major advantages are
the geo-processing functionalities and 3D output.
32 C. Lienert et al.
3.4.5 Intergraph Geomedia WebMap
This software is another proprietary map server which handles spatial databases
such as Oracle Spatial and Microsoft SQL Server. Geomedia WebMap is able to
export WMS and different raster formats, as well as vector-based standards, such as
WFS, GML, or SVG. Geomedia WebMap is mainly used in the business sector.
3.5 Web-Based Vector Map Examples
The following two map examples illustrate how geographic data may be visualized
by vector-based Internet maps. The example in Fig. 3.1 contains hydrological
real-time data which are automatically edited, processed, and visualized in an
interactive vector map, along with interactive time series graphs. The map is
based on data stored in a real-time PostgreSQL/PostGIS database which are auto-
matically converted to SVG. The real-time visualizations have been created on the
basis of the carto.net SVG framework and have been extended with speciﬁc
interactive GUI components.
The example in Fig. 3.2 shows a city plan accessible to administrative ofﬁcials as
well as to the general public. The map is based on Microsoft Silverlight technology.
Most of its content is delivered as WMS raster data using the ArcGIS Server via a
Fig. 3.1 SVG real-time map and time series graphs (Lienert et al., 2010)
3 Current Trends in Vector-Based Internet Mapping: A Technical Review 33
REST API and integrated in a Silverlight GUI. Vector-based interactive objects,
such as points of interest and borders, are placed over the raster background. The
vector data in this example are stored in an Oracle Spatial database.
Vector-based Internet technologies are continuously developing and changing, with
new standards and formats appearing, and old ones disappearing. The number of
technologies may seem confusing, but at a technical level, similarities between the
different technologies prevail: the use of equal graphical primitives (e.g., SVG and
Silverlight), the integration of multimedia (e.g., Flash and Silverlight), and the use
technologies, which are mainly rendering speed and the underlying authoring and
The anticipated move from desktop applications to purely Web-based
applications and services may drive browser vendors to further adopt Web-mapping
standards and workﬂows (Jolma et al., 2008). Currently with self-contained mobile
applications (so-called Apps) on the rise, however, the Web-browsers are not the
ubiquitous user interface for which many were hoping (Kennard and Leaney 2010).
Thus, a standardization of formats for vector-based Internet graphics is not to be
Table 3.2 shows application domains and the disseminations of vector-based
Internet mapping technologies by beginning of 2011, for different user groups and
for different use cases. This table is surely subject to rapid change. A wide range of
Fig. 3.2 Silverlight city map (www.stadtplan.stadt-zuerich.ch)
34 C. Lienert et al.
mapping frameworks and authoring tools cover various skill levels, some straight-
forward, others guided, yet others still experimental. However, the cartographers’
choice of vector mapping technology certainly also correlates to their technical and
Since authoring tools facilitate the map making process, technologies such as
Adobe Flash and Flex, or Microsoft Silverlight may better meet the needs of design-
oriented cartographers. Their popularity and diffusion is accordingly high. Due to
their code-based environment and required programming skill, the features offered
by software applications such as JavaFX, Canvas or WebGL reach a smaller
number of cartographers. These technologies, however, enjoy growing popularity
and may be complemented by some authoring tools in the future.
Client-side and server-side frameworks allowing for vector data overlay are
becoming increasingly popular and are found on numerous commercial and non-
commercial websites. There is also a trend for mapping software on mobile devices,
such as cell phones, to adopt this overlay concept. For many map authors, client-
side frameworks constitute a widely used basis for building customized maps.
These frameworks provide free raster-based, multi-scale background world maps
as well as functionality for custom vector data overlays. Technically more adept
cartographers with more computer science expertise, in turn, may set up a Web map
server for generating custom base maps combined with vector data overlays.
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Table 3.2 Application and dissemination of vector-based Internet mapping technologies
Targeted authors Typical use cases Authoring
Flash/Flex Designers and
++ Very high
Business applications ++ Medium
SVG Designers and
JavaFX Programmers Business applications + High
Canvas Programmers RIAs, infographics, games High
WebGL Programmers 3D graphics (experimental) Low
3 Current Trends in Vector-Based Internet Mapping: A Technical Review 35
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36 C. Lienert et al.