What are web scenes?

Web scenes are an Esri specification that allow different applications, APIs, and SDKs to create, edit, and display 3D maps, also known as scenes. Web scenes can be used in ArcGIS Online, Story Maps, apps made with the JavaScript API, and many other products.

The web scene specification

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

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

The following is the abbreviated JSON format of this full example of a web scene:

  "operationalLayers": [
      "id": "15988dea51e-layer-1",
      "opacity": 1,
      "title": "Hurricane Andrew",
      "url": "https://services.arcgis.com/nzS0F0zdNLvs7nc8/arcgis/rest/services/05_HurricaneAndrew_1992/FeatureServer/0",
      "visibility": true,
      "layerType": "ArcGISFeatureLayer",
      "itemId": "206699bc813c4b539faf2289bbe44008"
  "baseMap": {
    "baseMapLayers": [
        "id": "layer0",
        "title": "World Dark Gray Canvas Base",
        "url": "https://services.arcgisonline.com/arcgis/rest/services/Canvas/World_Dark_Gray_Base/MapServer",
        "layerType": "ArcGISTiledMapServiceLayer"
    "id": "15988dea917-basemap-18",
    "title": "Dark Gray Canvas"
  "ground": {
    "layers": [{
        "id": "globalElevation",
        "title": "Elevation",
        "url": "https://elevation3d.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/WorldElevation3D/Terrain3D/ImageServer",
        "layerType": "ArcGISTiledElevationServiceLayer"
  "version": "1.13",
  "authoringApp": "WebSceneViewer",
  "authoringAppVersion": "",
  "presentation": {
    "slides": []
  "initialState": {
    "environment": { /* ... */ },
    "viewpoint": { /* ... */ }
  "spatialReference": { /* ... */ },
  "viewingMode": "global"

The benefits of web scenes

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

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

For example, the web scene 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 scene.

Creating a web scene

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

ArcGIS Online

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

ArcGIS Pro

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

ArcGIS API for JavaScript

The ArcGIS API for JavaScript is capable of saving web scenes back to ArcGIS Online. Refer to the save a web scene sample for details.

Displaying a web scene

ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Refer to the load a web scene sample for a short walk-through on how to display a web scene with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.

Via a configurable app

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

The web scene specification

Learn more about the JSON structure of web scenes.

Read the specification