I've noted we have which already has synonyms of cloud, cloud computing, and cloud hosting. We also have that has geoweb as a synonym (plus several other 'web' rooted tags (like , but I think mapping and gis are obviously distinct).

I understand that 'cloud' typically refers to 'remotely hosted' but I'm unclear on if that equates to 'web' which usually refers to 'world wide web' or an html based environment. Are they the same thing (or becoming the same thing), or is there still a distinction and we (usually) use the web to access the cloud?

  • 1
    generally cloud is remotely hosted but some large companies have it internally to as a private cloud en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing#Private_cloud
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 14:36
  • I suppose 'remote' is relative. Some companies have intranets vs the internet too. But now you're talking implementation/application/scale rather than concept. And then if you've got java executing locally supplied through a web page... I was trying to avoid the details of private networks, VPNs, etc.
    – Chris W
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 21:56

3 Answers 3


I would say there is a difference.

Cloud GIS has more to do with the backend systems (databases and the processing power to work with them).

Web GIS has more to do with the frontend that is consumed by users. The scripting and user interface to interact with the backend. Could be considered two sides of the same coin.


I haven't looked at the tags, but I'd assume that web-gis refers to things you can deploy yourself, and cloud-gis ones that you can't (like Google Maps, ESRI's open data portal, etc).

  • I think that is the clearest distinction that I have read to date anywhere.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 21:59
  • Interestingly it's the complete opposite of what @cndnflyr suggested. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 0:52


Really I feel there is a fundamental difference between cloud and web

Let's start by saying that any system that can be described as in the cloud, has to exist somewhere as some physical entity on some server hardware, and that users of such cloud systems must use internet protocols to interact with them; I'm not sure that this is a good enough reason to describe them as web systems, or for any software deployed on them to be described as web-... For the user the cloud is providing them with a maintained IT infrastructure that they can't, or prefer not to provide themselves. Such cloud systems CAN be used to provide web sites and systems, intranets, extranets, and these web sites could in turn host web-gis systems. Cloud services and infrastructure can just as easily be used to host desktop systems.

Web-gis is generally regarded as a cut down version of desktop-gis. Giving some querying functionality to maps/spatial data provided on/through some web site. Such web gis may be hosted in the cloud, but for example none of the Web GIS systems that my organization provide are cloud hosted.

  • So you're making the distinction that web-gis will (always or at least the foreseeable future) have more limited functionality vs cloud-gis which could be the same full-blown gis software as run on desktop but actually running remotely and only accessed through a thin client on the local desktop.
    – Chris W
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 18:19

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