Maps for HTML Roadmap
By 2033, the web platform will include standard mapping features; web maps frameworks will include standards based accessibility features, will perform well, preserve privacy, and make map authoring easier for users.
Geospatial information on the Web is fragmented, inadequately covered by Web standards, and lacking interoperability and accessibility. This raises significant barriers to its effective and equitable use.
In 2016, Peter Rushforth laid out a vision for maps on the web, and started the Maps for HTML community group at the W3C. In 2020, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) engaged Bocoup to conduct a review of MapML specification. Bocoup attended the W3C-OGC Workshop on Maps for the Web, delivered a report, and published a case study.
In November 2021, NRCan re-engaged Bocoup to establish a rationale and conceptual framework for accessible map rendering by Web browsers, and create an implementation plan. Bocoup conducted a landscape analysis, static analysis on web maps usage in HTTP Archive, engaged and interviewed web maps framework authors, and GIS experts, and surveyed web developers. A summary of this research was published in Bocoup’s Maps or HTML Research report. This roadmap contains the implementation plan resulting from this work.
According to our research, 16% of web pages use maps, but 84% of surveyed map makers don’t have the necessary tools to make accessible maps. This was strongly echoed in follow up interviews, which also called out performance issues in existing web mapping tools. These findings indicate a need for standardized accessible web maps.
Bocoup identified three viable approaches to standardize web maps (covered in the above linked research document), and presented these findings to browser implementers. Implementers encouraged taking an iterative approach to standardizing maps, and focusing on buy-in from map frameworks during the process. Based on this feedback and standards development experience, Bocoup recommended the third approach from the research document, “the iterative approach”. The iterative approach includes:
The tables below describe a high-level eleven-year roadmap for the Web Maps ecosystem infrastructure partnership, including 16 key milestones.
Form a working group and continued stakeholder conversations
Research, gap analysis, and web framework patching to support
Patch frameworks using existing technologies (e.g. ARIA, AOM, CSS Houdini, Web Animation API, WebGL).
2, 3, 4
2022 - 2024
Synthesis of gap analysis and standards plan to close those gaps.
Disaggregate the MapML polyfill into individual, discrete custom elements based on Milestone 2 research with support for an accessible map interaction model (e.g sound based, haptic, printed, keyboard navigable), and a focus on performance, and privacy.
2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Standardize the rest of the map rendering model using above process
2, 3, 4
2022 - 2026
Implement Map rendering model in browsers
2, 3, 4
Add support for map rendering model standard to map frameworks
2, 3, 4
2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Add support for Disaggregated MapML Polyfills to map frameworks
Create a browser-level coordinate Reference System, including support for Display images (tiles, different zoom levels), tilting and rotating, and bearing support
2024 - 2027
Implement CRS in browsers
Add support for CRS standard to map frameworks
Standardize a pan and zoom capability in CSS
2024 ~ 2033 depending on consensus
Implement pan and zoom in browsers
Add support for pan and zoom standard to map frameworks
Implement a high-level map element based on above standards
2026 ~ 2032
depending on consensus
Bocoup is a mission and values driven web platform firm that partners with tech companies, nonprofits, and governments on design, engineering, standards development and strategy.
The following table shows a list of historical web maps milestones between 1994 and 2019.
HTML <map> element introduced
Took up the name “map” in HTML for image mapping, precluding geospatial map element from being created with the same name. (source)
OpenStreetMap is created
First open source, open content world map.
Yandex becomes a web map vendor.
Google becomes a web map vendor. Today has wide adoption in terms of embeds on web pages.
3D map client, initially as a desktop-only application, and later also as a web application.
Open source web based map framework.
Apple’s iPhone is released
Momentum shift from feature phones to smartphones, and from GPS devices to smartphones.
Apple becomes a web map vendor.
Maps for HTML Community Group is created
Start of discussion around making web maps part of HTML. (source)
“Integrate Web map support into browsers” discussion at W3C TPAC
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