WAP Is Dead?
By Carlo Longino, Tue Aug 10 20:30:00 GMT 2004

There's a pretty big misconception that WAP has been a miserable failure, but the much-maligned technology continues to putter along.


UK trade group the Mobile Data Association says that 1.11 billion WAP pages were viewed in the country in June, a 42 percent increase over June 2003, and over 4 billion pages were viewed in the second quarter, driven by ringtone downloads as well as the Euro 2004 football tournament.

Four billion pages in three months isn't bad for a technology that was supposed to have died on arrival several years ago. Certainly faster GPRS and 3G connections help, as do advanced handsets, but the biggest change has come in the design of mobile services and how they're marketed.

WAP has such a negative stigma attached to it because that's what carriers marketed several years ago, rather than what could be done with WAP, and the technology got the blame for misguided and poorly implemented content. Systems like Vodafone live!, i-mode and O2 Active are successful, in part, because they separate the technology from the services. The majority of users don't care how their phone gets the news headlines or sports scores, just that it can and does. Make technical information available for the geeks that want it, but sell simpler services to the masses.

But these services are all better designed than early WAP efforts as well, and the difference is more than color icons. Content providers are finally gaining an understanding of what works on a mobile device, though some are still stuck on what doesn't. But just as WAP has evolved from WML to XHTML, what programmers do with those languages has to change as well.

Mobile search must continue to improve, since mobile users typically go online in search of specific information rather than just to browse. This also reinforces the need for robust personalization features and smarter systems that help users get to the information they're looking for more quickly.