I have never had direct access to any Esri product, but I have written code that has interacted with ArcGIS Server, with layers that have the word "MapServer" prominently in the URL and in the JSON they provide.

But what exactly is "MapServer" (not to be confused with the other MapServer)? Is it a product? Is it just a protocol, akin to WMS? Is there actually any stand alone service called MapServer, or is it (as I suspect) just a name given to the protocol used to access generated raster map images?

  • I don't think that MapServer implies any raster output from an ArcGIS service, it's probably a name in the URL to distinguish between OGC services and JavaScript API services. So we can have a WFS with a URL like: http://server/arcgis/services/folder/service/MapServer/WFSServer? and a WMS with a URL like:http://server/arcgis/services/folder/service/MapServer/WMSServer?
    – nmtoken
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


Esri map service URLs end with the type of the service, the main types you can use are:

  • Map Server - Used for displaying layers as raster images(even vector data) and can be used for queries.
  • Feature Server - Unlike the map server, the data is transferred as JSONs and is rendered with symbology on the client side. Used for client data editing and geometry based events. Feature server are created by adding the "Feature Access" capability while publishing, this creates a Map Server for viewing and a Feature Server for viewing and editing.
  • GP Server - A tool you created with Python, or with an ESRI module that you wish to publish as a service so your applications can use and run in the AGS side.

ESRI different service documentation

As you noted, MapServer is an ESRI map service of a raster map layer.

WMS is the OGC standard that is equal to the MapService.


Like @nmtoken suggested, "MapServer" just provides a unique URL to navigating the HTML RESTful endpoints for ArcGIS Server, such as:



From @jgravois "The only thing that distinguishes FeatureServer layers from MapServer layers is the exposure of additional operations for adding/updating and deleting features via REST when the publisher wants them to be available"

It could also be ImageServer, GPServer, GeoDataServer, so on...



  • Ok, so "MapServer" is a type of service, and the standard name for the final part of a REST URL containing such a service? Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 1:42
  • I would say yes, MapServer or FeatureServer, etc. is the server/service type. I usually just think of it as a directory.
    – CCantey
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 13:22

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