What is a web map?

Web maps are an Esri specification that allow different applications, APIs, and SDKs to create, edit, and display maps. Web maps can be used in ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, Navigator, Collector, Storymaps, Esri’s configurable apps, apps made with Runtime SDKs or the JavaScript API, and many other products.

The web map specification

The specification is in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), a text format that can easily be transferred, stored, and edited. The web map specification has many advantages:

  • Standardization of ArcGIS apps, products, and APIs for map sharing
  • Consistent map functionality and visualization across all web map-supporting applications
  • Common standards for applications that create, edit, and consume the web map specification

The following is the abbreviated JSON format of this full example of a web map of parks, trails and trailheads in Los Angeles.

{
  "operationalLayers":[
    {
        "id":"Parks_and_Open_Space",
        "layerType":"ArcGISFeatureLayer",
        "url":"https://services3.arcgis.com/GVgbJbqm8hXASVYi/arcgis/rest/services/Parks_and_Open_Space/FeatureServer/0",
        "visibility":true,
        "opacity":0.51,
        "title":"Parks and Open Space",
        "itemId":"f2ea5d874dad427294641d2d45097c0e",
        "layerDefinition":{ /* ... */ },
        "popupInfo":{ /* ... */ }
    },

    /* ... */
  ],
  "baseMap":{
    "baseMapLayers":[
        {
          "id":"VectorTile_2559",
          "type":"VectorTileLayer",
          "layerType":"VectorTileLayer",
          "title":"World Navigation Map",
          "styleUrl":"https://www.arcgis.com/sharing/rest/content/items/e19e9330bf08490ca8353d76b5e2e658/resources/styles/root.json",
          "itemId":"e19e9330bf08490ca8353d76b5e2e658",
          "visibility":true,
          "opacity":1
        },

        /* ... */
    ],
    "title":"World Navigation Map"
  },
  "spatialReference":{ /* ... */ },
  "authoringApp":"WebMapViewer",
  "authoringAppVersion": "5.2",
  "version": "2.9",
  "applicationProperties":{ /* ... */ }
}

The benefits of web maps

Web maps are used across the ArcGIS platform. A map created in one application is accessible and looks the same in other applications that implement the web map specification.

Writing applications that include capabilities defined by the web map specification, such as rendering operational layers, visualizing data, pop-ups, or labeling, can result in a lot of code. The web map reduces development time without compromising a developer's flexibility.

For example, the web map specification defines how to display pop-ups for a layer. Instead of writing custom code to display a pop-up and subsequently having to update that code to make changes, users can configure pop-up displays with ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Pro and see the change propagate automatically in all applications consuming that web map.

Creating a web map

While you can create web maps with a simple text editor, the fastest way to author web maps is to use one of Esri's available tools.

ArcGIS Online

The easiest way to author a web map is to use ArcGIS Online. You can refer to the ArcGIS Online documentation or the create a web map ArcGIS DevLab to get started.

ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro supports authoring and sharing web maps. Refer to the author a web map topic in the ArcGIS Pro help.

ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Authoring web maps with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript is planned for a future release.

ArcGIS Runtime SDKs

The ArcGIS Runtime SDKs allow you to create and share web maps. Refer to the documentation of the individual SDKs to get started:

Displaying a web map

All ArcGIS APIs and SDKs can display web maps. Because they all share a common reference with the web map specification, the map will render the same on all devices.

ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Refer to the display a web map ArcGIS DevLab for a short walk-through on how to display a web map with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.

ArcGIS Runtime SDKs

All ArcGIS Runtime SDKs have the capability to render a web map. Refer to the ArcGIS Dev Labs for a short walk-through on how to display a web map in your SDK.

Via a configurable app

You can also display web maps via configurable apps in ArcGIS Online. To create an application, refer to the ArcGIS Online create a map quick exercise or browse a list of all available configurable apps.

The web map specification

Learn more about the JSON structure of web maps.

Read the specification