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The Wikimaps page summarizes most of what has been done regarding maps in Wikimedia projects. Special interest should be paid to the Wikiteer discussion. Another promising article is titled WikiProject Geographical coordinates.

This page seems to be getting too large for the discussion. Any suggestions how to continue? Several mailing lists have already been proposed but none seems to really cover the whole topic.

Proposal for a Wikimaps Architecture[edit]

The first essential feature of Wikimaps will be the ability to address datasources outside Wikimaps. In the realm of geodata processing a comprehensive set of standards has been implemented by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). Most of these standards have been implemented in several Free Software projects. Compatibility is very high due to the nature of geo data and reflects nicely in these software projects. This discussion describes the components of a geodata infrastructure, how to interact and what would be the job of the Wiki.

Geo Data[edit]

Everything starts with geo data. In a simplyfied sense maps are always generated from real world coordinates. These can be attributed with alphanumerical data, name, description, further links. Another source of data are raster images like aerial or satellite imagery. There are two different data sources of interest:

  • Free Wikimaps - a geodata collection copyrighted and maintained by Wikipedians
  • Proprietary or protected geodata hosted and maintained by third party - linked into Wikimaps

Both data pools can interoperate perfectly, if all systems agree to use the same interface specifications. Most larger Geographic Information System Software package nowadays supports the basic industry standards as specified by the OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium). Most specifications have been implemented by one or more Free Software projects. For more details about those software packages refer to [User:Tschirl my homepage].

point of interest / geo bookmark / geocach / geoblog[edit]

The smallest possible geodata is one set of coordinates and which reference system they belong to. A lot of data is not stored in degrees but in a projected spatial reference system. Therfore the source srs is crucial whenever geodata is adressed.


One coordinate can be stored together with other attibutes of this location in an XML schema which has been formalized by the OGC as GML (geographic markup language). Although at first sight it seems a little overloaded this is probably the format which is best used to create new geo data. It can be extended to contain several coordinate tuples to form a line or polygon and can combine several features to describe a complexer object. This example shows the GML of the postal code area 53111 in, city of Bonn, Germany. This geo data format is supported by many Free Software GIS software components, client, server and application. PostgreSQL/PostGIS and in parts also MySQL implement the geometry format WKT (Well Known Text) and use WKB (Well Known Binary) for physical storage.

Spatial Reference System[edit]

The whereabouts are defined in a spatial reference system (coordinate system). The earth is neither flat nor a perfect sphere but a bumpy and crumbled ball. Therefore spatial reference systems have to be calculated on spheroids some of which are not compatible to each other. An interesting aspect about maps is the way they are oriented. This can have such a large impact on our psychology that we even call people from "down under" when they come from the other side of the globe. Pardon me for stressing this fact but no place on earth can be under, down or above the world, they all are on the earth.

How to display a map[edit]

The basic information required to obtain a map are the geographic coordinates and the type or content of geodata.

Map Contents[edit]

The second part is the "content" of geodata. Even the most obvious maps show that it will not do to stick with just one type of geodata. A world map cannot be displayed from geodata needed to display a road map (for navigation). On the other hand the coordinates of the world capital cities will not make sense to somebody having a look at the Eiffel tower. A biologist might want to document the occurrence of insects in a map and therfore needs topographical information. The location of a certain species does not make a lot of sense without the correct backdrop map. There are several different geodata elements, the most common are:

  • point
  • line
  • polygon (area)
  • grid (raster)

There is an essential difference between these types of geodata. Points and lines do not cover a lot of space. An area will always cover something (if it is not transparent, but then it essentially is a line). A grid or raster will definitely block anything lying underneath. So depending on the type of data it can be of great importance in which order a map is composed. A dynamic map interface should therfore be capable of displaying geodata of any kind, combine several geodatasets and switch projections (spatial reference systems).

Formalizing a Map Requests[edit]

A map request can be formalized using the format of an OGC WMS request (standardized specification) which defines a region with a set of coordinates and adds additional technical information like the spatial reference system, image format, error return code etc..

WMS getMap request[edit]

The following URL shows an OGC WMS getMap request for a map showing the outline of Germany. Several of these requests can be combined to create a map with overlaying data coming from different servers located all over the world.

Web Context Document[edit]

A combination of several servers, layers and map requests can be stored in an OGC standard format as defined in Web Context Documents. This XML document can be read and interpreted by a host of different GIS software packages making the information interoperable to the highest possible degree.

I believe that this would be the best possible way to include layouted maps in any Wiki article. As this approach is rather technical a wysiwyg interface would be helpful if not essential. Every author should be able to modify a map compilation without having to resort to other software. Mapbender provides PHP modules which can probably directly be integrated with [Mediawiki] software.

Where to start?[edit]

As a first step Mediawiki could learn to recognize a getMap request and resolve the underlying URL to show the requested result as an image - a map. This should be farily trivial as the result of a getMap request usually will be an image of the formats PNG or JPEG (also GIF, WBMP, Flash and several others). Maybe a new tag "Mapimage".

[[Mapimage:,5622978,2575723,5623020&WIDTH=200&HEIGHT=200&FORMAT=PNG&BGCOLOR=0xffffff&TRANSPARENT=TRUE&EXCEPTIONS=WMS_XML getMap request]]

This link is dynamic and will always be requested from the originating service. Whenever the city administration of Bonn acquires new orthophotography it will automatically be displayed as soon as it is available on the Bonn server. The following request returns a larger image and less detail.

[[Mapimage:,5622950,2575750,5623050&WIDTH=800&HEIGHT=800&FORMAT=PNG&BGCOLOR=0xffffff&TRANSPARENT=TRUE&EXCEPTIONS=WMS_XML getMap request]]

Anybody who can technically code a getMap request can then directly start to add them to Wiki articles.

There was a discussion on the mailing list Foundation-l whether Wikimaps should be a separate Wiki. Some coding has been done using SVG in the project Geo by [Magnus Manske]. This approach uses a special geo data format explicitly for use in Wikis. Maybe this data could be used as an overlay to the architecture discussed here.

A Wikitech mailing asked for development of a WYSIWYG editor because standard users wont know how to code all those wiki tags. This is so much more true for the above getMap requests. I admit that without a map editor the task of coding a getMap request is plainly unrealistic. I didn't chime in on the WYSIWYG discussion because I believe it to be next step (see below). Mabybe we should reorder priorities and directly start with the mapping frontend? I will set up a demo, link follows here.

The next steps[edit]

The task of manually coding getMap request to obtain maps will be a rather tedious and highly error prone process. It will be necessary to integrate OWS mapping software to create the getMap requests. The mapping module should be invoked by clicking on a button in the standard edit toolbar. It has a map interface with navigation buttons, a gazetteer and map catalog to choose map services from. The author can compose a map by combining and overlaying different services and navigating to the area of interest.

Static and dynamic maps[edit]

The map resulting from OGC WMS getMap requests can either be saved as a static image or the metainformation which led to this map can be stored. The static map will be useful as a document for the archives. Consider the current online maps showing the earthquake and tsunami damage of 2004. With the next larger disaster all those maps will be lost (hopefully only from the online servers), a copy of the resulting physical image therfore is the better choice. The dynamic links will reproduce the same map extent as in the static document but with the dynamic contents that are provided by the linked services. Imagine a highway map with the current pile ups changing every 60 seconds. A static map of this information is absolutely worthless (except for the documentation of highest congestion in a city). Consider the temporary aspect. A good axample are election results -select a year and show what people have voted.

Taking the historical aspect further: it is important to keep the project open-ended enough that it could allow students could see how Europe's political boundaries have changed over the decades and centuries, or how temperatures have changed over thousands or even millions of years, or even the drifting of the continents in the breakup of Pangea. All this could provide an invaluable continuity of information for students and scientists, and just ordinary people who are wondering why they have found Antarctic Beech growing in the mountains of subtropical Queensland, Australia, or what were the boundaries of the Roman Empire during Claudius' rule, or how early homo sapiens spread across the globe. That is, the maps should include not only spatial data, but also temporal data.

Finding Places with Wikiteer[edit]

Most of the initial traffic on the geodata servers will be caused by erroneous navigation because people don't find what they are looking for (besides simple good old curiosity). Therefore one of the early features should be a robust and comprehensive naivgation. Wikiteer combines Wiki with gazetteer. A Gazetteer simplyfied means a geographic search engine for place names. The data for naviagtion is the same as for presentation but it is not accessed by selecting a geographic region but attributes of the geo data - in this case place names. These can be ordered hierarchically, the most obvious being national borders, possibly preceded by continents. Within one country it should be possible to list placenames - the more the better. I have not yet tested how to integrate Wikiteer geo data formats with OGC syntax.

Time Line Navigation[edit]

By means of a time input, graphical or otherwise, maps could be generated for different geological time periods. Also links to articles from maps could be fixed to times, so a map of Paris in 1940 would have different links than one in 2005. This could be a powerful navigational tie-in to other wiki resources.

Further Development[edit]

After setting up a navigation and gazetteer geo database and including map tags in Mediawiki the funcionality can be enhanced where it is needed most.

Managing Geodata - Catalogs[edit]

The map services and the maps they serve will have to be categorized, sorted and monitored. There already exists a host of catalog services, many of which are kept up to date and in shape with quite a remarkable amount of money and manpower. Still this doesn't help to make the data a lot more accessible to the general public, the complexity even of the catalogs preserve access to the specialists. This is a pressing problem for many data providers who have the duty to publish their data in a comprensive way but seem to not manage very well. The compilation of a usable catalog would be one of the more intriguing jobs for the Wiki community.

Monitoring Map Services[edit]

Web Map Servers are always in danger of beeing slashdotted. Geodata can become very heavy indeed. A badly configured orthophoto mapserver will not work at all, no matter how large the hardware cluster might be. It can also happen that a service disappears altogether. Therefore careful monitoring of the services should be considered. This will also provide valuable data for a meta information system.

Meta Information Systems[edit]

If a web map server disapperars that can be fatal for dynamic maps. Somebody will have to start from scratch, and add new data to show what the previous service contained. In this context metadata is of high value. Metadata will describe aspects about the geodata - not the individual geo objects themselves. Whenever a map is linked into an article some metadata should be referenced so that in case of a failing or disappearing service ersatz can be found.


At a later stage it might be possible to access routing data with street names and housenumbers, but usually this data is proprietary, expensive and/or out of date. The algorithms calculating shortest paths are well known and implemented in several free software packages.

How to create new geodata[edit]

Whenever a place name could not be found it should be possible for the Wikipedian to add this information to the free dataset. If it is possible to interactively find the place by navigating manually, the newly found location could then easily be entered into the gazetteer database. Ideally either the database or the Wiki software will be able to show geographical diffs just like like it would show diffs in the articles. This is adding point data only, in a next step it could be possible that people enter complete geometries like a road section, house, park or whatever. Coordinates can be taken from car navigation systems or other GPS equipped gadgets. Anything more than a single Point (Line, Polygon) should be created with a topology. This is a lot harder to implement as the features have to be validated with geometric rules. I assume that the growing GPS enlightened geocaching community will also be a valuable source of free geo data.

There is an open source project at that works on automatically generating road maps from GPS data.

Software and Technology[edit]

As data store we would strongly recommend to use PostgreSQL because it includes the very powerful geodata interface PostGIS. (Authors note: I hope that this does not cause a long debate between MySQL and PostgreSQL disciples. Believe me, when I say that I had enough of it. We use both databases, one for administration data one for geo data and we live to tell - so it cannot be that difficult. I personally favor diversity, so why not just use both?). On top of this central datastore several services run. WMS for maps (UMN MapServer), WFS-T (GeoServer) for features and gazetteer and deegree as building blocks for both. Editing and management can be done with the Mapbender framework which is implemented in PHP and therefore is probably a nice interface to Mediawiki.

Demo server[edit]

For a starter we can happily provide manpower, know-how, test environments, OWS testbed and discussion. We have several services up and running which we can also modify and adjust in any way necessary. Additionally we have been collecting online geo data services all around the world as a starter for the catalog.

Performance Issues[edit]

Our internet access will definitely not cope with what traffic Wikimaps will produce. It has to be clear that Wikimaps in the proposed way will be quite a processor killer. It will need strong hardware infrastructure and a fast internet backbone. Whether or not this whole idea is worth pursuing will be a lot more transparent as soon as we can show some demos. I have heared of 200 to 300 pages per second on the classic WIkipedia Apache setup. Talking about web mapping systems you rather think the other way round in seconds per request - even using the best hard- and software you can get. A lot of thought should therfore go into performance issues. A comprehensive planning of the initial data structure and semantics will help fine tune the system later.

Perhaps a peer 2 peer architecture could be used. A downloadable peer 2 peer wikipedia client for distribution of bandwith intensive data, perhaps made using JXTA. The client could run in the background of the computer of those who have installed it and be used to cache and distribute data. When a user sends a request for an image, the servers could reply with a hash of the image and an URI for a superpeer which has a list of several peers with the requested resource. If nobody has the requested image it could then be sent to the user directly from the server. Fuelbottle 22:11, 14 November 2005 (UTC)[reply]

My Home location[edit]

This is the aerial photography of the location of my office.

lat:7.072499 lon:50.73881

--Arnulf Christl 20:31, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Data sources[edit]

I would be willing to make and contribute data. I have been making maps of roads and railroads, specifically the NYC subway, and these could in theory be included in the database. I would need a way to convert it - I can output a PDF with USGS quad lines marked, if that could somehow be converted (automatically or manually). I could also mark latitude and longitude from the quads. Once I get it into GIS data (if that is what we are to use), I could then add fields, like opening date, closing date, etc. Maybe this could be cross-referenced with the station infoboxes. --SPUI 21:37, 6 Mar 2005 (UTC)


The standard map-making tools in the world of geophysics are the Generic Mapping Tools. They ship with a detailed database of coastlines and political divisions (they are not so good on major rivers and lakes). The tools are command-line and scriptable, which is nice for producing maps out of data sources.

A simple example using GMT
A simple example using GMT

Very complex maps may be produced if one has access to information such as height fields (but the tools do not ship with height or so information; one has to acquire it from other sources). David.Monniaux 18:19, 23 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

It seems that height/bathymetry information may be obtained from NOAA. (global relief data) David.Monniaux 18:37, 23 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Trying with GTOPO30 (30"):

Another example with GMT
30" data, smoothed, legend etc...

MediaWiki Demos[edit]




Davis Wiki[edit]

I wasn't sure where to put this, so I'm noting it on the talk page. Over at Davis Wiki we have had a very simple wiki map interface for about a year now. It operates off of an XML file that contains coordinates along with associated PNGs. We are planning on writing a more complex map application that would instead use dhtml/javascript to display the map interface. On the server side, it would ideally generate simplified XML representing stripped-down GIS data that was provided. Anyway, right now it's all very simple. You can associate points with pages on the wiki, and it makes a lot of sense considering we have a very geographically based wiki.

Perhaps we should consider developing a free set of applications -- one application to render GIS data in a suitable form, and another to display it perfectly (e.g. better than google maps) in the browser. If we had this infrastructure in place, we could implement the specifics (how we associate these with pages, how we version, etc) independent of our wiki backends. --Philip Neustrom

Google Earth Alternative[edit]

Wikimaps should have maps that work similarly to the maps for Google Earth, and have a web based interface like Google maps, but they should support any program accessing them, so people can write Google Earth alternative programs that allow full resolution saves, are fully cross platform, and allow the user to cache the entirety of Wikimaps if they so desire, in case they are not going to be connected to the internet or want it to be faster. Caching all of the maps may not be feasible for a single person, but a city or small region probably would and small organizations could set up local servers mirroring Wikimaps. This would also allow open source and competing desktop applications that could result in improvements in these applications. - Dimensiondude

GSHHS: see[edit]

Seen on Debian: $ dlocate gshhs gmt: /usr/lib/gmt/bin/gshhs so GMT can handle them. --User:Jidanni 2006-05-17

generate data onto a world map[edit]

Is there a way to enter data in a table for countries and have it draw a map colored in a scale based on the numbers? I remember that back in about 1995 I had a free world atlas program that came with the computer which was able to do this really well so I cant imagine it being that difficult to do. At commons:Image talk:BlankMap-World-v5.png there is a list of co-ordinates to use for automated bucket filling, and a way of using a perl/gimp script to do something similar but this graphs two sets of data against each other and isnt really the same thing. (I wasnt able to use the perl script so it needs a simpler explanation anyway). Even if there was something which just had a list of countries, and you ticked the ones you wanted, and then it coloured a map in one color for the ones that were ticked that would be awesome. Astrokey44 15:49, 29 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Edits to the Goal section[edit]

I made some changes to Wikimaps#Goal; feel free to revert if you object:

  • Added links on some terms to their defining articles.
  • Changed the bullet list with hand-typed numbers and letters to a nested wiki numbered list.
  • Inverted phrase order in the sentence which compares Wikimaps and Wikipedia, to put Wikimaps first. It makes more sense to me that way, because the topic of the paragraph is Wikimaps.

I let this sentence stand:

In practice the goal is a simple but powerful system that is free and usable for all.

I thought about changing "system" to geographic information system, but I thought perhaps that would imply too much. That is, Wikimaps as envisioned here will not have all the features associated with what most people think of when they hear the term GIS, right? However, Wikimaps will be a kind of geographic information system, so it might be useful to compare Wikimaps to the existing GIS software, in the Goal section. --Teratornis 17:25, 23 January 2007 (UTC)[reply]

This page should be moved to[edit]

I don't think this page should be moved. This page concerns Wikimedia projects and is a useful, central place for users from different projects to work together on this. AudeVivere 15:37, 26 January 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Map graphic[edit]

Map design is much more than just export data from a GIS. See map graphics.

Wikimaps in the press[edit]

Stuttgarter Zeitung vom 15.12.2004. Ich habe leider nicht den vollständigen Artikel :-( Trefferumgebung "[...] Immerhin gibt es auch eine optimistische Perspektive. Eine Gruppe von Programmierern der freien Onlineenzyklopädie Wikipedia hat sich an das ehrgeizige Unterfangen gemacht, jedes Wissenselement der Sammlung mit [...]"

transltion needed!!we're internationl here!

Well, international does not mean just English-only, but here you go (not that it would tell much about maps at all, but that's what it says):

Stuttgarter Zeitung, Dec 15 2004. Unfortunately I don't have the complete article :-( Hit range "[...] At least there is also an optimistic perspective. A group of developers of the free on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia started the ambitious venture, to ... each element of knowledge of the collection with [...]"

Renaming Wikimaps, Wikiteer and Wikipediatlas[edit]

I got an idea. How about we merge Wikimaps along with Wikiteer and Wikipediatlas into Geowiki (Geographical Wiki). This will include more information compare with atlas like Britannica and Rand McNally and streets and roads. Pumpie, 01:31, 02/03, 2005

I have proposed another name for it, see talk:WikiGPS. And, after all, geo-wiki or wiki-geo could resemble geometry, which it should not. -- slady 18:58, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Geowiki is a very good name. So good indeed that Google returns dozens of websites that already use this name; is not the only one. Perhaps it is time to realize that "wikimaps" or "geowiki" isn't a new idea, and to rise above the crowd, any new project would have to bring something radically new. But what? The first step could be to provide an overview of the hundreds of collaborative mapping projects that have already started. --LA2 03:27, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Excellent idea. That's what Wikimedia projects are best at. +sj | Translate the Quarto |+ 23:22, 28 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I think that it might be easier to focus activities by creating another project for goal 1, and keep Wikimaps for goal 2 and its sub-goals. I see the two goals as being quite different but related. Perhaps a project for goal 1 could be named, "WikiGIS". GIS seems to be a natural fit and I notice that the foundation already owns the domain.