What is is the Difference Between Web GIS and Internet GIS?

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In this era Web has changed every aspect of our life from our daily activities to our professions activities like our jobs and so on. Among these changes, GIS has been affected by this technology and a new technology, which is called Web GIS, appeared. Today, a vast majority of Internet users uses this technology but most of them don’t notice it; some examples of it could be finding hotels and addresses in an strange city using Google maps or other online maps or when you are lost you can easily locate your location using your phone GPS system and find your path. There are many, many usages that we can name, some refers to this technology and Web GIS  and some others call it Internet GIS.  This leads to the question, is there a difference between these two terms? What is the difference between Web GIS and Internet GIS?

A GIS basically consists of Hardware, Software, data and users. Seeing the evolution among these components over the years is interesting. In 1960s and 1970s these components were joined together in one computer. Later distributed GIS emerged with the adoption of a local area network (LAN). Using distributed GIS, these components no longer needed to be located together, instead the components could be in separate buildings long distances from each other. With the development of Web GIS these components are now separated farther distances than before; GIS users sitting on one side of the globe can access a server located on the other side of the globe.


As you might know Web GIS is a GIS system that uses web technologies. It often uses web technologies to communicate among different components of the system. Web GIS originates from a combination of web technology and the Geographical Information System, which is a recognized technology that is mainly composed of data handling tools for storage, recovery, management and analysis of spatial data Web GIS is a kind of distributed information system. The simplest architecture of a Web GIS must have at least one client and one server that client is a desktop application or web browser application that allows users to communicate with server, and the server is a web server application.

Internet GIS

Web GIS is a close term to Internet GIS. These two words are always used as synonymous with each other. There is a slight difference between these two words. The Internet supports many services with the Web being one of these services. So we can call a system as Internet GIS if it uses many of services of Internet not only Web service and if it uses only Web we should name it Web GIS. This definition makes Internet GIS boarder than Web GIS. In real world Web is the most attractive service of Internet and it is why Web GIS is more common than Internet GIS.

Figure 1 Internet GIS and Web GIS comparison.
Figure 1 Internet GIS and Web GIS comparison.

The geospatial Web, or GeoWeb, is another term that uses to refer Web GIS , However the definition of Web GIS  is not identical to Web GIS . GeoWeb can be defined by merging geospatial information with none geospatial information such as news, photos, stories and so on.


P. Fu, J Sun, 2011, Web GIS principles and applications, ESRI Press.

V Pessina , F Meroni , 2004, A web GIS tool for seismic hazard scenarios and risk analysis.

What is the Difference Between the Internet and the Web? – Computer History Museum

About the Author

Majid Hojaty is a MSc student of GIS and Remote Sensing with Tehran University in Iran.

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