Web maps can easily deliver up to date information. If maps are generated automatically from databases, they can display information in almost realtime. They don’t need to be printed, mastered and distributed. Examples:

  • A map displaying election results, as soon as the election results become available.
  • A map displaying the traffic situation near realtime by using traffic data collected by sensor networks.
  • A map showing the current locations of mass transit vehicles such as buses or trains, allowing patrons to minimize their waiting time at stops or stations, or be aware of delays in service.
  • Weather maps, such as NEXRAD.

Software and hardware infrastructure for web maps is cheap. Web server hardware is cheaply available and manyopen source tools exist for producing web maps.
Product updates can easily be distributed. Because web maps distribute both logic and data with each request or loading, product updates can happen every time the web user reloads the application. In traditional cartography, when dealing with printed maps or interactive maps distributed on offline media (CD, DVD, etc.), a map update caused serious efforts, triggering a reprint or remastering as well as a redistribution of the media. With web maps, data and product updates are easier, cheaper, and faster, and can occur more often.
They work across browsers and operating systems. If web maps are implemented based on open standards, the underlying operating system and browser do not matter.
Web maps can combine distributed data sources. Using open standards and documented APIs one can integrate (mash up) different data sources, if the projection system, map scale and data quality match. The use of centralized data sources removes the burden for individual organizations to maintain copies of the same data sets. The downside is that one has to rely on and trust the external data sources.
Web maps allow for personalization. By using user profiles, personal filters and personal styling and symbolization, users can configure and design their own maps, if the web mapping systems supports personalization. Accessibility issues can be treated in the same way. If users can store their favourite colors and patterns they can avoid color combinations they can’t easily distinguish (e.g. due to color blindness).
Web maps enable collaborative mapping. Similar to the Wikipedia project, web mapping technologies, such as DHTML/Ajax, SVG, Java, Adobe Flash, etc. enable distributed data acquisition and collaborative efforts. Examples for such projects are the OpenStreetMap project or the Google Earth community. As with other open projects, quality assurance is very important, however!
Web maps support hyperlinking to other information on the web. Just like any other web page or a wiki, web maps can act like an index to other information on the web. Anysensitive area in a map, a label text, etc. can provide hyperlinks to additional information. As an example a map showing public transport options can directly link to the corresponding section in the online train time table.
It is easy to integrate multimedia in and with web maps. Current web browsers support the playback of video, audio and animation (SVG, SWF, QuickTime, and othermultimedia frameworks).