"Web GIS: Toy or Tool"? Resource List

by Bill Thoen, Oct 1995

Note to readers: This page was originally compiled in 1995 when we weren't so sure where the web was going in relation to mapping and GIS. I've left it on online for historical purposes, because it is now a snapshot in time that may be interesting for anyone researching the history of web-based mapping. -Bill

Thanks to everyone who responded to my query about GIS toys and tools on the web last July. Comments from the group on comp.infosystems.gis and the GeoWeb list clearly indicated that web-based technology to deliver spatial information online has a lot of potential in it. This became such an interesting subject that I decided to make it the subject of my GIS Online column in the October 1995 issue of GIS World.

New Additions

Top Picks

Canadian National Atlas Information Service NAISMap
NAISMap allows you to view and manipulate National Atlas spatial data layers and construct your own map of Canada.

NAISMap uses a body of code called N-map. N-map is a medium-size piece of C code. A prototype was originally designed in the spring of 1994, and acted as a catalyst for the NAIS-on-the-Net project, which resulted in the NAIS home page.

N-map uses a vector database of coordinates which it renders into a GIF raster image.

URL: http://ellesmere.ccm.emr.ca/naismap/naismap.html
E-mail Contact: gnewton@nais.ccm.emr.ca (Glen Newton)
Clinch River Environmental Restoration Program (CRERP)
The Clinch River Environmental Restoration Program (CRERP) is designed to address The transport, fate, and distribution of waterborne contaminants from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) and to assess potential risks to human health and the environment associated with these contaminants. This server allows the web-surfer to see a 3D view of the river from any point along its course. If you have a fast connection and your browser is configured to view MPEG video, you can also view movies of a fly-over of the "Virtual Clinch" and its valley.

URL: http://www.esd.ornl.gov/programs/CRERP/SUB/INDEX.HTM
URL: http://www.esd.ornl.gov/programs/CRERP/SUBMOVIE/INDEX.HTM
E-mail Contact: hnw@mtqgrass.esd.ornl.gov (William W. Hargrove)
E-mail Contact: forrest@esdhof.esd.ornl.gov (Forrest M. Hoffman)

Document archive for the GeoWeb Project
This is the homepage for the Geographic Information Retrieval and Delivery field, a group of researchers studying methods and approaches to making digital geographic information and data more easily available to GIS researchers and the general public. This field includes several major research projects such as Alexandria, as well as government initiatives in the United States and other countries. All interested parties are welcome to participate in this field through their research and our mailing list.

URL: http://wings.buffalo.edu/geoweb/
E-mail Contact: plewe@acsu.buffalo.edu (Brandon Plewe)

Provides the following choices for interactive maps

URL: http://regis.berkeley.edu/grasslinks/index.html E-mail Contact: sue@ced.berkeley.edu (Dr. Susan Huse)

TIGER Map Service
Interactive map of Washington, DC demonstrating TIGER data coverage. This is one of the best and demonstrates a practical application of delivering census data over the web.

URL: http://tiger.census.gov/cgi-bin/mapbrowse-tbl
E-mail Contact: plewe@acsu.buffalo.edu (Brandon Plewe)
E-mail Contact: cstuber@census.gov (Chris Stuber)

Xerox PARC Map Server
The Award-winning The Xerox PARC Map Viewer was created in June 1993 by Steve Putz at Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center, as an experiment in providing interactive information retrieval via the World Wide Web. A paper describing the Map Viewer was presented in May 1994 at the First International World-Wide Web Conference. See: Interactive Information Services Using World-Wide Web Hypertext ( http://www.parc.xerox.com/PARC/www94/iisuwwwh.html ) to see how you can use this server to include maps in your own documents.

URL: http://www.xerox.com/map
E-mail Contact: putz@parc.xerox.com (Steve Putz)

Other Examples & Related Servers

ARC/INFO Atlas Application
URL: http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/pip/atlas.html

Australian Information from ERIN
This is a simple map interface that allows you to retrieve a list of environmental information based on the region you define.

URL: http://kaos.erin.gov.au/cgi-bin/spatial_interface

Look under the "GIS, Maps, Applications and Programs" link to find the SITEINFO map and data server. This allows you to make 2 and 5-mile radius maps of anywhere in EPA Region 10 (Northwest USA). You can create a map and get a report of all environmentally-important features, and have the results automatically e-mailed to you. This system uses a CGI form and Arc/Info to produce the maps.

URL: http://www.epa.gov/region10/www/r10.html

Delivering 5D images via the Web (Vis5D protocol)
(images: wind vorticity during the winter storm of March 1993)

Now you can embed links to Vis5D files in your Web pages (just like you can embed links to GIF files) and you can get Mosaic to automatically invoke Vis5D to view them (just as it automatically invokes xv to view GIF files).

Vis5D files are five-dimensional arrays in much the same way that GIF images are two-dimensional arrays. The dimensions of Vis5D files are: row, column, level, time and an index into a set of physical fields (e.g., temperature, pressure, humidity, salinity, wind or current velocity, sulfur dioxide concentration, and so on). Row, column and level may be latitude, longitude and altitude, but don't have to be (the dimensions may be abstract, or may be in a non-Cartesian map projection).

The Vis5D system provides highly interactive 3-D visualization of the data in Vis5D files. It is generally used to look at the output of models of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, but can be applied to any 3-D data sampled on a regular grid. To see images generated by Vis5D, click on:

URL: http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/~billh/view5d.html
E-mail Contact: whibbard@macc.wisc.edu (Bill Hibbard)

DeLorme Mapping
ImageMap demos of mapping products (canned demo, not interactive)

URL: http://www.delorme.com/
E-mail Contact: webmaster@delorme.com

Dynamic Geographic Information System (DGIS) home page
This is version 1.0 Alpha of a dynamic GIS system written in Smalltalk. This version includes capabilities like zooming, panning, and information retrieval. You can also put down objects that represent either a geo-referenced comment or a URL.

This system requires the HotJava browser to view the map, but any browser will work if you want to view just text information. HotJava browsers are available from Sun Microsystems at URL http://java.sun.com with versions for both Sun machines running Solaris or PCs running Microsoft Windows NT.

There is currently data available for Hawaii, San Jose, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

URL: http://www.dis.anl.gov:8001/GIS/
E-mail Contact: peter_korp@anl.gov (Peter A. Korp)

Faunmap Project
FAUNMAP is an electronic database documenting the late Quaternary distribution of mammal species in the United States. It has been developed at the Illinois State Museum (ISM) with support from the National Science Foundation (BSR-9005144). This project is co-directed by Drs. Russell W. Graham of ISM and Ernest L. Lundelius, Jr. from the University of Texas at Austin. The primary purpose of this database is to investigate the evolution of mammalian communities. Specifically, with statistical techniques and mapping capabilities of a Geographic Information System (GIS), changes in the distributions of individual species and their effects upon mammal community composition can be documented for the late Quaternary. Understanding these processes will also facilitate paleoenvironmental reconstructions.

For the past four years, data have been captured from paleontological and archaeological sites that contain mammalian remains. There are currently encoded data from 2919 sites. FAUNMAP focuses on sites in the contiguous 48 states during the last 40,000 years, i.e., 40 ka, or essentially the limits of radiocarbon dating.

URL: http://www.museum.state.il.us/1/research/faunmap
E-mail Contact: rgraham@museum.state.il.us (Russ Graham)

Geographic Information Delivery Services
These are services, some experimental and some production-quality, that people and organizations have developed to efficiently deliver geographic information and data.

URL: http://wings.buffalo.edu/geoweb/experiment.html

Great Lakes REIS Spatial Data Viewrs
This is a well-designed web page under the Great Lakes Regional Environmental Information System server at http://epawww.ciesin.org .

URL: http://epawww.ciesin.org/glreis/nonpo/spatial/spatial.html
E-mail Contact: developers@ciesin.org

How to: Make Web-based maps with Arc/Info
This document provides a bit more information on how to create an interactive server for map generation using Arc/Info and the web. It is primarily for AML programmers who are working with the workstation version of Arc/Info.

URL: http://www.museum.state.il.us/0/research/faunmap/query/how.html
E-mail Contact: erich@museum.state.il.us

JD Software's "Lightning"
Interesting example of data delivery online through their Lightning shareware package. Main focus is environmental data such as the Daily COOP (TD3200) NCDC data set, a large world data set (global summary 1977-1991), snotel and US river flow data. The Lightning software can be downloaded via FTP from: ftp://mars.jdsoft.com/Lightning .

URL: http://mars.jdsoft.com/index.html
E-mail Contact: jeffb@mars.jdsoft.com (Jeff Brown)

Map-It: A Forms-based Map Generator
This form takes some longitude/latitude pairs as input and makes a Mercator projection map showing land/sea and political boundaries. The map bounds will be about 10% larger than the bounds of the entered data points. The default set-up on this server is to draw a map of San Francisco Bay. The map is made with the freely available GMT package, the version 3 beta required here is not generally available yet.

URL: http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/docs/mapit.html
E-mail Contact: rsignell@usgs.gov (Rich Signell)

Metadata and WWW Mapping Home Page
This is a long list resources and pointers to information about metadata and mapping on the Web.

URL: http://www.blm.gov/gis/nsdi.html

National Virtual Realty, Inc.
Want to shop for a home on the Internet? The NVRI page is a first-class demonstration of the multiple real estate listings of the future. The top level view is of a map of the San Francisco metro area showing locations of various properties for sale. You can click on the map border to pan across the area or click in the map to zoom in. Panning is active at all scales. When you get close enough to see individual properties, you can get a photo, asking price, listing agency, and other details.

URL: http://www.homefinder.com/
E-mail Contact: tjc@emaps.com (Thomas Churchill)

Pythia is a new WWW browser with new features that incorporate GIS including vector graphics and ability to connect to MapInfo and Vision databases.

URL: http://pythia.com
E-mail Contact: info@pythia.com (Appian Interactive Corp.)

Scientific Assessment and Strategy Team's (SAST) demo on the 1993 flood
The SAST Data Distribution System allows Internet Users the opportunity to download geographic data determined by their own specific needs and their own choices. The data are available in three different formats, Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS), PC Arc/Info, and Workstation Arc/Info. If the SDTS format is selected the user will need to have access to gunzip and tar utilities. The version of these two utilities depends on the system being used (PC vs. Workstation).

URL: http://edcwww2.cr.usgs.gov/sast-home.html

University of Minnesota Supercomputer Institute for Scientific Visualization and Graphics
This hypertext document is a compilation of scientific visualization (sci-vis) information from contributors from various organizations and individuals.

URL: http://web.msi.umn.edu/WWW/SciVis/umnscivis.html

Virginia County Interactive Mapper
Provides interactive TIGER maps of Virgina counties. User selects county, features to display, and labeling options from a CGI form. In about 90 seconds (or less), the map appears. They also contain a nice-looking legend, and an index map that allows for zooming in to more detail. Data used in the map can be downloaded in Arc/Info export format, and map can be downloaded as GIF image. The process use a shell script, some C++ code, and Arc/Info to produce the maps. All source code (except for Arc/Info, of course) and an explanation on how to do all this is also available.

URL: http://ptolemy.gis.virginia.edu:1080/tigermap.html

Virtual Reality Modeling Language Repository
The Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) is a developing standard for describing interactive three-dimensional scenes delivered across the Internet. The VRML Repository is an impartial network resource for the dissemination of information relating to VRML.

URL: http://www.sdsc.edu/vrml/
E-mail Contact: ceubanks@sdsc.edu (Charles Eubanks)
E-mail Contact: moreland@sdsc.edu (John Moreland)
E-mail Contact: nadeau@sdsc.edu (Dave Nadeau)

WWW Mapping Application by Phil Massam
URL: http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/pexe/gp/Z0A12540933D
E-mail Contact: MSC9428@geovax.ed.ac.uk (Phil Massam)

YAVEMS: Yet Another Very Experimental Map Server
URL: http://www.ciesin.org:2222/map.html
E-mail Contact: hmeij@ciesin.org (Hendrik Meij)

Global Land Information System X-windows Interface
I didn't have an X-Windows interface to try out the XGLIS server, but if you have the equipment and interest, this is the "fourth" method used for GIS and mapping online (which I didn't mention in the article due to lack of space).

URL: telnet://guest@xglis.cr.usgs.gov

Mailing Lists

This mailing list has been formed in order to discuss the issues, opportunities, and potential problems of interactive GIS via the World Wide Web.

To subscribe to DISTGIS send email to the server at majordomo@ag.arizona.edu and put in the message body the line:

subscribe DISTGIS [your email address]

Send public messages to DISTGIS@ag.arizona.edu .

Note: the brackets indicate that supplying your e-mail address is optional

Online Bibliography for Web-based Mapping

Moline, Jodi
1994, INLINE SUPPORT FOR VECTOR FILES: Engineering Drawings on the WWW, Electronic Proceedings of the Second World Wide Web Conference '94: Mosaic and the Web ( http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/IT94/Proceedings/ ).

URL: http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/IT94/Proceedings/DDay/moline/moline.html

Plewe, Brandon
1994, The GeoWeb Project: Using WAIS and the World Wide Web to aid location of Distributed Datasets (HTML), delivered at WWW '94 in Chicago

URL: http://wings.buffalo.edu/~plewe/paperwww.html