Web mapping is the process of designing, implementing, generating and delivering maps on the World Wide Web and its product. It primarily deals with technological issues, while web cartography additionally studies theoretic aspects which include but not limited to the use of web maps, the evaluation and optimization of techniques and workflows, the usability of web maps, and social aspects. Web GIS on the other hand emphasises on analysis, processing of project specific geodata and exploratory aspects. Often the terms web GIS and web mapping are used synonymously, even if they don’t mean exactly the same. Web maps are often a presentation media in web GIS and web maps are increasingly gaining analytical capabilities.
Mobile maps, displayed on mobile computing devices, such as mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs and GPS are a special case of web maps; they are regarded as mobile web maps if they are displayed by a mobile web browser or web user agent.
The use of web maps can be regarded as a major new trend in cartography and has opened up new opportunities like real-time maps, cheaper dissemination, more frequent and cheaper updates of data and software, personalized map content, distributed data sources and sharing of geographic information. With web mapping, freely available mapping technologies and geodata potentially allow every skilled person to produce web maps. The cheap and easy transfer of geodata across the internet allows the integration of distributed data sources, opening opportunities that go beyond the possibilities of disjoint data storage. Everyone with minimal knowhow and infrastructure can become a geodata provider; this puts geodata in the hands of untrained people who potentially violate cartographic and geographic principles and introduce flaws during the preparation, analysis and presentation of geographic and cartographic data.