Site - header



Map Whiteboard for Collaborative map making and data capture

Runar Bergheim (AVINET), František Zadražil (CCSS)

In 2020, despite being more than 20 years into the era of web mapping, surprisingly many meeting rooms in government institutions over the world are still littered with large-format paper maps over which serious looking men and women stand hoodled, pointing with their fingers and drawing with markers — before handing the manuscript back to the resident GIS expert who puts them back into the data.

The Map Whiteboard technology aims at taking this experience online and improving the accuracy and quality of the data and, albeit in a very small way, aiding the environment by reducing the amount of paper consumed.

We have set out to build a concept that is to map-making what Google Docs is to word processing; a shared user interface that enables people to collaboratively build maps and edit spatial data where each is able to see the changes contributed by other users - as they are made.

The prerequisite for this is a format that allows the representation, storage and transfer of maps and map data. Since the Web Map Context service was conceived, little has changed in terms of standardization of interchange formats for maps. Map Whiteboard builds on top of a JSON based format called “Map Compositions” that draws on the early work of Web Map Context documents, but extends them with 20 years worth of added features.

Much effort has been put into the sharing of data, the publishing of maps and the decentralized capture of data through field mapping applications and applications dedicated to user generated content allowing individual users to contribute to ever-growing centralized yet shared information resources. Web mapping protocols are largely RESTful with some tweaks added to support features like authentication. With the mainstream availability of technologies like Web Sockets that enable persistent connections between clients, there is a potential for real-time collaboration in map and spatial data creation and Map Whiteboard is being built on top of it.

The Map Whiteboard technology will support a number of common use cases for “maps” that have shown themselves exceptionally resilient despite the many and significant improvements that have been made to map technology. Thus far Map Whiteboard supports OpenLayers based clients for real-time map editing as well as visualization of Map Compositions in OpenLayers based clients and desktop clients like QGIS.

Relevant links:
Screen recording showing collaborative feature editing (
Map composition schema (Map Composition schema)


More Blog Entries