An Open Letter to the MapServer
Open Source Web Mapping Community

June 10, 2020

Greetings MapServer community,

We are pleased to share with you some exciting news about the future of open source web mapping.

Over the past few years MapServer adoption has grown ten-fold and has become the web mapping platform of choice for many businesses, government agencies, nonprofit groups and individuals. The MapServer developers have added powerful new features. The community has enjoyed three incredible conferences and continues to support each other and enhance the community.

We want to ensure that this success and momentum continues for the MapServer product and community. MapServer continues to run well in diverse environments and its rich set of features play an indispensable role in many organizations. More than ever, we are committed to improving MapServer and providing exceptional value to the community.
To this end, we take this opportunity to share two bits of news: the creation of the MapServer Foundation and welcoming the addition of Autodesk’s next-generation web mapping platform (previously known as Tux) as open source into the foundation.

MapServer Foundation

We are delighted to announce the creation of the MapServer Foundation ( The foundation is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide a supportive framework for open, collaborative development of geospatial software. Several groups and individuals are collaborating to help launch and sponsor the new foundation. Financial support from Autodesk will allow us to get the foundation up and running. In this letter, we present some ideas of how we think the foundation can help the community, but these ideas need broader discussion and debate within the community.

We looked to other successful open source movements, such as Apache, to see how our community could benefit from the creation of an independent foundation. It is clear that the time has come to create a formal infrastructure to help further support and promote the professional open source web mapping development environments and communities. While initially focused on web mapping projects, we hope the foundation will adopt other open source geospatial projects that need a home.

Forming the foundation is only the beginning, as we now seek community involvement and participation. The foundation will have a governance model that allows it to be run by a Board of Directors that represents the community. How it is ultimately going to be run is up to the members of the community. The foundation will also have a set of bylaws that provide structure and can be amended through a community voting process.

Role of the foundation

The first priority for the foundation is to engage the broader MapServer community. Members of the community are encouraged to join and get involved. Consider this letter as your invitation to participate. The community web site is the place where you, as a user and participant in the community, can follow and contribute to the development of the MapServer Foundation family of projects.

The primary responsibilities of the foundation may include:

  • Support code repository and other project infrastructure
  • Formalized process for decision-making (e.g. where to host the next conference)
  • Legal protection for the source code and developers of the software
  • Paying for development work on minor improvements of the platform
  • Acting as a central repository for marketing, branding and professional image development of the product
  • Providing process for mitigating disputes
  • Financial support for advocacy, sponsorship, community events and conferences

Many of these community-related functions have been overseen in an ad-hoc manner or deferred to the University of Minnesota or other organizations in the past. The foundation will streamline the coordination of legal, administrative and governance efforts.

As MapServer will now be officially managed by the foundation, it no longer makes sense to call it UMN MapServer. Product branding is also becoming more important and this is a good opportunity to introduce a more visual name for the product. We propose calling it MapServer Cheetah. This presents a fast and agile image that suits the product well and will help differentiate it from other MapServer products.

MapServer Cheetah & MapServer Enterprise

We are also very excited about Autodesk’s decision to release their next generation web mapping platform into the open source community through the MapServer Foundation. This adds further legitimacy to our open source development platform. Their product will be named MapServer Enterprise and is the successor to Autodesk MapGuide but built on an entirely new architecture.

MapServer Enterprise and MapServer Cheetah will be run as two separate but parallel projects. There are no plans to merge them into one but we aim to share technologies between the two projects wherever possible. We also hope to provide utilities that allow the community to easily use one or both platforms.

MapServer Enterprise will be licensed using the OSI-approved GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). MapServer Cheetah will continue to be licensed under an MIT-style open source license. Autodesk is eager to participate in an open and transparent development process driven by independent guidance from the community. We encourage you to check out MapServer Enterprise, which is available today on the community web site.

We are proud to be part of this community and we hope you will join us in establishing the MapServer Foundation. For more information on how to get involved, please visit the community site at: and join the mailing list discussions.