This International Standard defines three operations:
Web Map Service operations can be invoked using a standard web browser by submitting requests in the form of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). The content of such URLs depends on which operation is requested. In particular, when requesting a map the URL indicates what information is to be shown on the map, what portion of the earth is to be mapped, the desired coordinate reference system, and the output image width and height. When two or more maps are produced with the same geographic parameters and output size, the results can be accurately overlaid to produce a composite map. The use of image formats that support transparent backgrounds (e.g., GIF or PNG) allows underlying maps to be visible. Furthermore, individual maps can be requested from different servers. The Web Map Service thus enables the creation of a network of distributed map servers from which clients can build customized maps.
A Web Map Service is usually not invoked directly. More often, it is invoked by a client application that provides the user with interactive controls. This client application may or may not be web-based.