Leaflet allows you to do the basics, of course, such as popup an information window and overlay your own data. It can do far more than that and is a viable replacement for Google Maps. The functionality brought by Jason Sanford’s Leaflet Vector Layers is a real selling point for me. Geocommons are ArcGIS Online are two easy ways for people to get their data on the web. Leaflet Vector Layers then makes pulling that data into a web map simple. The Vector Layers plugin also makes Arc2Earth data available to you. Arc2Earth is a great tool for helping you move your data off of the desktop on to a cloud-based service. They have been doing some amazing work with storing geospatial data in Google Fusion Tables. However you share your data on the web, Leaflet can bring it in to a web map and display it. If it’s easy to code and produces something that is easy to use and aesthetically pleasing, it’s going to be a big success.
I am working on a project at Rowan where we are looking to make an interactive campus map that will zoom down to the room level, displaying floor plans of the buildings on campus. The flexibility and the cross-platform functionality of Leaflet means that I will seriously consider using this Library to power the user interface of the map. I was originally thinking about OpenLayers, but Leaflet seems powerful enough to do all that I require.
Mapquest, the granddaddy of web mapping platforms, has been losing market share ever since Google Maps burst on to the scene. Google Maps’ tile-based (aka “slippy”) map interface and API caused many to adopt Google’s offering over Mapquest for integration with web sites as well as for daily use.
Mapquest has since turned over a new leaf and is offering a tiled map based off of OpenStreetMap data. Announced in 2010, the OSM-sourced map is just one of a few developer-friendly moves the company has recently made.
If you want to get started using Mapquest maps in your blog or personal web page, they have a simple to understand page on how construct your map using their Map Builder application. You can then embed maps into your WordPress blog using their plugin. If you want something more advanced, you can use their Open APIs to incorporate their OSM tiles and data into your application.
And if you don’t want to use Mapquest’s API as the framework for building your application, you can always use the Mapstraction library and still use the tiles and some of their other data services.
Each week, I would like to feature a web mapping project/application that goes beyond the simple points-on-a-map example. If you know of a web mapping project that should be featured on the site, please email me at examples [at] learnwebmapping.com. Don’t be bashful; if you have or are in the process of developing an innovative web mapping project or application, please send me a link and some details on the project. Share with us your inspiring application and the backstory of its development.
To get things started, I would like to share with you a series of blog posts from my new jersey geographer blog that detail the time spent brainstorming and developing the New Jersey Land Change Viewer. The NJ LCV is an interactive web mapping application that employs animation of the map layers to depict changes to New Jersey’s landscape over a twenty-one year period. I was the sole developer of the project; if it was not for open source software and cloud-based hosting services, I wouldn’t have been able to make the application a reality.
After the project was released, I wrote the following about the experience:
Again, if you are working on a web mapping project or know of a recently released project that should be featured here in depth, please drop me a line at examples at learnwebmapping.com or @reply me on Twitter.
From the Mapstraction site:
Users can switch maps as desired based on personal taste and quality of maps in their local area. Various tools built on top of Mapstraction allow users to easily integrate maps into their own sites, and configure them with different controls, styles, and provider.
I plan to discuss Mapstraction more over the next few posts. With Google’s recent change to their API Terms, many are switching from the Google Maps API and Mapstraction will undoubtably play a role in some users’ transition schemes.
R. Buckminster Fuller was truly a modern Renaissance Man. Bucky created many inventions and championed several ideas that have shaped the way we live. One of his creations is the Dymaxion map projection. The map projection is rather complex; the developable surface is an icosahedron. When the icosahedron is then sliced and flattened, it produces a world map that is visually intriguing. It is truly unlike any other map projection.
In Zachary’s post, he also mentions the Faumaxion web map, which is a Flash-based web map that reorients itself so that north is at the top for any of the triangular faces of the Dymaxion projection. Michal Migurski, a partner at Stamen Design, has the details on how he created the Dymaxion slippy map.
The downside to using a Dymaxion projection in your web map is that the support for the projection amongst the mapping APIs is minimal. You will need to do more of the heavy lifting in order to get this projection working properly in your web map. That’s also ignoring the fact that many people are not spatially aware and that this different projection will require your audience to orient themselves with the way the Earth has been projected. While Spherical Mercator is common and familiar, it does grossly exaggerate the areas closer to the poles, which in turn distorts your mapped data. Choropleth maps depicting a variable dependent on area, such as population density, are often misleading when mapped with a Mercator projection. The Dymaxion map is closer to an equal-area map than most, however the variable orientation towards North makes this projection a hard sell to a general audience.
Nonetheless, the Dymaxion map is an incredible map projection, from both a scientific and aesthetic point of view. The time spent by some very dedicated, intelligent people to get this working in interactive form speaks to the admiration of the projection and its creator. If only Bucky had lived long enough to see what wonders the Internet hath brought…
If you have no experience with web mapping, but have some basic website-building experience, you can begin to make interactive web maps fairly easily using Google’s mapping application programming interfaces (APIs).
The University of North Carolina has developed an awesome way to explore historic photographs and maps of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Driving Through Time features two web maps that serve as the primary means of exploring their digital catalog of photographs and scanned paper maps.
Driving Through Time is a great example of making information accessible using web maps. These documents have likely been with the UNC Library system or the State of North Carolina for years, unseen by the public because they existed only as hard copies. Now that they are available through a web map, you can explore the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway from anywhere in the world.
Welcome! I am developing LearnWebMapping.com as a resource for you to find information about web mapping concepts, APIs, tips and tricks. I am also developing an online college course on web mapping, including a discussion of client-side mapping interfaces, GIS services, and best practices to help you build awesome map applications. You can find out more about the course offered through Rowan University Online at the About the Course link here and above.
Check back as I post articles and links to interesting web maps for inspiration and educational resources for guidance on your next project.