MapServer was originally developed by the University of Minnesota (UMN) ForNet project in cooperation with NASA, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR). Later it was hosted by the TerraSIP project, a NASA sponsored project between the UMN and a consortium of land management interests. MapServer is for browsing GIS data and creating geographic image maps. It is now a project of OSGeo and is maintained by developers from around the world.
MapServer's purpose is to display spatial maps over the Internet. Some of its features are: 1. Displaying and querying hundreds of raster, vector and database formats. (TIFF/GeoTIFF, EPPL7, ESRI shapfiles, ESRI ArcSDE, MySQL and others.) 2. Ability to run on various operating systems. (Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, etc.) 3. On-the-fly projections. 4. High quality rendering. MapServer creates map images from spatial information stored in digital format. It can handle vector and raster data. An aerial or satellite photo of a region can be displayed behind vector data to provide a clearer picture of how those vector elements relate to real-world features. Although vector data has specific spatial references, raster objects are images and therefore require tags that allow them to be properly positioned and scaled. MapServer can render raster images but has no way of tagging them with spatial information.
Because MapServer is template based it performs several tasks when generating a map like labeling features, creating legends and stacking layers on top of one another. It is not a full-featured GIS, however, as it does not provide integrated DBMS tools, has limited analytical abilities, and it has no tools for georeferencing. 
- <Kropla, Bill. 2005. Beginning MapServer: open source GIS development. Apress Pub. Berkely, CA.>
|Tags||data sharing, internet|