WorldMap: An Open Source Software Platform

Caitlin Dempsey


Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis recently released WorldMap, an open source mapping application designed to make it easier for researchers to upload large GIS datasets and to create online maps using thousands of geographic layers available to them from the Worldmap Library.

WorldMap is built using open source software (access the WorldMap source code via and is hosted on Amazon’s EC2 cloud infrastructure.   Google and OpenStreetMaps APIs are used to provide general purpose basemaps.

The application is freely available to any user.  Users can upload large GIS datasets in a variety of formats up to 100mb in size for vector formats and 200mb for raster formats.  Users can also access thousands of layers from the library, create and edit maps, share those maps with a limited group of other users, access online cartographic tools, and export data in a variety of standard formats such as shapefile or KML.  Additionally, WorldMap WARP is a online solution for georectifying scanned paper maps.  There, you can browse uploaded map scans, help georeference maps and download the KML files for those maps.

The beta was released in July of 2011 and the statistics so far are impressive:

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  • 1295 new registered users
  • 1871 data layers added by users, containing 20,753 data fields
  • 488 map collections created by users
  • 57,000 unique visitors from 191 countries

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.