The ArcGIS Online team released a significant update to the light gray canvas basemap, to make it much more useful for thematic maps of subjects throughout the world.
The canvas basemap focuses attention on your thematic content by providing a neutral background containing minimal colors, labels and features. Its reference layer sits on top of your thematic layers, providing geographic context and allowing your data to come to the foreground.
The most significant change in this release is that the Canvas map now contains additional, useful coverage worldwide, and detailed nationwide coverage in nearly 50 additional countries. This map was developed by Esri using NAVTEQ data for North America, DeLorme basemap layers, and Esri basemap data.
The basemap now includes boundaries, city labels and outlines, and major roads worldwide from 1:591M scale to 1:72k scale. Thematic maps of country data, major administrative units (states, provinces, counties, etc.) and some smaller geographies benefit from this change.
More detailed nationwide coverage is now available in Europe, Southern Africa, South America, and Australia to be fully consistent with the World Street Map and World Topographic Map down to the 1:9k scale. The additional detail is available nationwide for countries shown in the coverage map below. Thematic maps at these larger scales benefit, such as thematic maps of postal code data. At all scales, lines and point locations tend to be clearly visible on the light gray canvas basemap (as demonstrated in this blog as well as this one).
The map has improved labeling everywhere, leaving more room for your content to show but retaining essential labels at each scale.
Labels were adjusted slightly to show more clearly on top of thematic content (see below).
Of course, you may choose to provide your own reference layer instead, as was done here.
Many people asked for more highways and streets at more scales in the Canvas map. This version shows more highways and streets than before at key transition scales, starting at 1:577k scale.
If you have previously used these map services, and you don’t see anything new, try clearing your cache in order to see the updates.
If you have feedback or comments, please post them to our forum at http://forums.arcgis.com/forums/30-ArcGIS-Online.