Web GIS and its architecture: a review
R. D. Gupta
Received: 6 February 2017 /Accepted: 10 November 2017
Saudi Society for Geosciences 2017
Phenomenal progress has been witnessed in the field of Geographic Information System (GIS) in recent times. The development
of webGIS is the result of the growth of the Internet and consequently World Wide Web. The webGIS architecture is continuously
changing according to contemporary technologies and requirements. In this paper, webGIS and its architectures are reviewed.
Firstly, GIS and invention of the Internet are discussed. Evolution of webGIS is then covered along with major milestones of its
development and open source initiatives. It is followed by discussion on client server architecture and its types. Thick and thin
client architectures are then described and compared. As the paradigm in the computing world shifted towards web services,
service-oriented architecture (SOA) is also discussed in context of webGIS. Spatial cloud computing and cloud-based architec-
ture for webGIS are then described. The paper also provides a comparison of different webGIS architectures so that suitable
architecture can be selected by the user based upon the requirements.
Geographic information has been in use from centuries.
Paper maps were the important source of information.
Nowadays, data is available in the form of spatial mash-
up that is created from various data sources (Zhou et al.
2014). From past few decades, noticeable works have
been carried out in the field of Geographic Information
System (GIS) and the related topics. GIS is designed to
deal with large amount of geographic data. GIS has en-
hanced the spatial data by associating computer and net-
work technologies with it. It enabled the end user to per-
form the tasks that range from viewing of data at different
resolutions to find out the shortest path in transportation
(Zhan 1997), to terrain analysis in environmental applica-
tion (Neteler et al. 2012), to find out the best location in
business (Eddie et al. 2007), and to identify the crime
hotspots for security agencies (Chainey et al. 2008).
GIS was monolithic and very costly in its early stage. It
required specialized skills and heavy investment in setup. It
was mainly used in organizations by few well-trained users.
Initially, GIS was developed using limited hardware capabil-
ities and support (Goodchild 1992). The integration of GIS
with the web has resulted in making GIS available to the
common public in an easy and efficient way (Green and
Bossomaier 2004). The increasing popularity and decreasing
cost of laptops, smart phones and other mobile devices created
a major role of Internet in our day-to-day activities. This in
turn resulted in wide spread use of webGIS. There have been
several initiatives in this field by the developers and user com-
munities that subsequent increased the popularity of webGIS.
Several webGIS architectures have been proposed to meet the
The aim of the present paper is to provide an overview
of webGIS and its architectures. The GIS is first discussed
and is followed by the evolution of the Internet and World
Wide Web (WWW or web). The evolution of webGIS and
identification of different milestones of this process are
then explained. This is followed by discussion on various
architectures, namely, client server architecture, SOA, and
cloud computing. A comparison of these architectures is
also carried out that will help in the selection of webGIS
architecture for a problem at hand.
* Sonam Agrawal
R. D. Gupta
GIS Cell, Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology,
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh 211004, India
Civil Engineering Department, Motilal Nehru National Institute of
Technology, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh 211004, India
Arabian Journal of Geosciences (2017) 10:518