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WMS stands for Web Map Service. It's an OGC standard for serving up map images over HTTP. See Web Map Service on Wikipedia

Client Setup

Using WMS in JOSM

  • The JOSM editor can load images and maps from WMS servers as background. See JOSM Imagery help for details.

Using WMS in Merkaartor

  • The Merkaartor editor can load WMS data as background. Use Tools -> WMS Servers Editor..., then right click on a layer -> WMS adapter

Using WMS in iD

Even iD is meanwhile capable of loading images and maps from WMS as background. To set it up, at the right side of the screen go to "background settings / custom / ..." ("edit custom background") and enter an appropriate URL.


TIGER provides WMS tiles of different geo-registered map services, see https://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/tigerwebmain/TIGERweb_wms.html . (A specification of the used WMS interface is available here: https://portal.ogc.org/files/?artifact_id=66915 .)

  1. For physical features, TIGERweb provides the following URL:
  2. To access the WMS tiles, the appropriate parameters need to be added to the URL. You can use a browser to query the capabilities of the WMS server. In this example, the response is available here: https://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/arcgis/services/TIGERweb/tigerWMS_PhysicalFeatures/MapServer/WMSServer?VERSION=1.3.0&SERVICE=WMS&REQUEST=GetCapabilities . The response is given in XML format. Look for the tag <Layer queryable="1"> followed by the tag <name>. In this example, we want to see all railroads with their labels, so the relevant layer names are "Railroads_Labels19237" and "Railroads". (Note: The parameter queryable=1 of the tag <Layer> is not relevant. Other servers might not use it or use it with a different value.)
  3. Next, you need to use these layer names as values for the parameter LAYERS. Other parameters are set to the variables provided by iD. Here's a URL that you can use for the custom background setting in iD (for this railroad example):
    (Of course, to see the background map with railroad features in iD you will have to move and zoom to a region that is covered by TIGERweb data, e.g. https://www.openstreetmap.org/edit#map=15/41.3014/-72.3730 )

Public WMS Servers

Aerial Imagery

See the Aerial imagery page for a list of aerial imagery WMS sources.

SRTM contours


See TIGER 2011.

OSM WMS Servers

Name Free Updated Coverage Style Layers (roads, buildings, etc) Native support
for local projections
WebsiteHai.com yes Weekly Pakistan Default Styles yes yes
Geofabrik no minutely World Mapnik default
custom styles
HistOSM yes weekly only historic objects
IT-Consult Halle noncommercial only daily DE, CH, AT custom style yes yes
magOSM yes daily FR custom style yes yes
CH-OSM yes daily CH custom style yes yes
mundialis yes weekly World custom style
Omniscale No, free trials minutely World custom style yes yes
terrestris yes weekly World custom style
MapTiler Cloud noncommercial only weekly World custom style yes
WhereGroup only basic edition Europe custom style

Server software

Tiles vs. WMS

There are good reasons for using tiles (mainly speed) and good reasons for using WMS (mainly flexibility).

Some software to help you move between those worlds:

See also