As part of the new ArcGIS, and concurrent with the 10.1 release, a new vision for using GIS on the web is emerging. This is being driven by new technologies such as consumer mapping, Cloud computing, smartphones, and web standards such as HTML, REST, and JSON. There is huge interest in migrating many computing functions and services to the cloud. At Esri, we firmly believe that people around the world are ready to use, create, and share GIS maps on the web containing authoritative data and analytical processes published by you, the GIS community, that fully reflect your expertise, tradecraft, and experiences.
Now, with the Internet as the fundamental plumbing that connects users, data, and services, the web is another platform for GIS. On this new platform, ArcGIS is not just a software package that you install, but rather a destination and infrastructure on the web that you can take advantage of, much like the many other web-based systems that store, serve, and work with user-generated content.
You can think of ArcGIS on the web as a content management system for geographic information that not only makes it easy to find, use, and make great maps from your and other users’ information. It also serves as a GIS data-publishing system and a full-blown application development system with a rich set of APIs for creating map-based apps and embedding geographic functionality in any app. This is a huge step forward for the GIS community and the field of GIS because it enables you to unlock your data holdings and get information into the hands of end users in an easy, effective format so it can be accessed and disseminated in compelling new ways.
One of the important features of a content management system like this is that the ultimate end users of the maps and map data don’t have to visit the ArcGIS website or know anything about what ArcGIS is. At first, this may seem paradoxical because we’ve just said that the ArcGIS website is a destination you visit. Here’s a simple example that illustrates the point. Suppose you run a community website used by the people who live in a particular neighborhood of a city. By searching the web, you find out that your city government has published an official map showing fire hazards and planned evacuation routes and made it public on ArcGIS.com. Using the ArcGIS map viewer, you can create a link to that map, and you can further customize the link so that it opens that official map zoomed in on your neighborhood. You can put this link onto your own community website and also into social media contacts with your community, such as Twitter posts. Or, you can embed that official map, zoomed in on your neighborhood, right into a page on your website. None of these activities requires you to log in to ArcGIS as a user or to create your own map: you are using the content you find on the site. The people who visit your website experience a web map that works like other web maps they’ve seen, and they don’t need to know anything about ArcGIS or GIS in order to use it.
That’s a example, but it helps illustrate this new paradigm of data use and sharing. Originally, the only way to make GIS maps was to install and learn software. While that is still an important pattern for professional GIS work, now anyone with a web browser can use ArcGIS to create maps, publish and share them, and develop applications that utilize these maps.
Going a step further, anyone can make professional-quality GIS maps and apps with ArcGIS on the web with no software required other than a web browser. Traditional GIS users employ ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server to create map services and other GIS services to share their foundational geographic information—map services, image services, editing services, geoprocessing services, and so forth. Once published, these can be discovered and used to create ArcGIS web maps that can be used anywhere.
The maps and data people find when at ArcGIS on the web is authoritative and up-to-date because it is provided and managed by GIS professionals in the agencies who are the key stewards of geographic information for their areas of interest—thousands of them, ranging from state, local, and national governments to nonprofits, businesses, and geo-info providers such as imagery companies. With ArcGIS on the web anyone can:
ArcGIS on the web is also where professional GIS users share information with the wider community and the world at large. If you are a GIS professional who uses ArcGIS software you can also use ArcGIS on the web to:
Esri has expanded and transformed ArcGIS Online into a complete Software as a Service (SaaS) application. ArcGIS Online allows users to create and share their web maps and data in a cloud environment, including the ability to store, manage, and host services. This system allows users to easily publish their content for others to use, off-load selected processing activities, and share their knowledge, thereby extending their own capabilities with low-cost cloud infrastructure. Users will be able to expand their systems using this new flexible and scalable deployment option and increase the value of their GIS by making geographic information more broadly available. With these new capabilities, anyone will be able to upload their geographic data directly to ArcGIS Online and automatically convert it into a web map. The uploaded information can be a map created using the ArcMap application on the desktop, or it can be simple geographic or tabular data, such as shapefiles, CSV files, or spreadsheets. Once this information is added, ArcGIS Online automatically creates a web map that can be published as a web service for focused or widespread use. These maps can then be shared or combined with other map layers to author yet more rich web maps and apps.
ArcGIS Online is open and supports multiple web standards including HTTP, REST, and JSON, plus geospatial standards like OGC services and KML, as well as the native map services from ArcGIS Server. ArcGIS Online also supports the integration and use of ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server, providing a fully integrated web-publishing solution for ArcGIS users.
ArcGIS Online is already a rich content system with a global atlas of beautiful basemaps and imagery, as well as nearly 100,000 datasets and map services that have been shared and registered in its catalog by GIS users around the world. Users can easily access, discover, and use these geospatial resources to create and share compelling maps and carry out geospatial analysis. This content can be easily integrated with the growing social media and geospatial content now available on the web.