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Wireless Application Protocol 2.0

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In this article, Chris Bennett provides an overview of the latest WAP release: WAP 2. This major reworking of WAP addresses the concerns of the critics and brings WAP in line with existing Web standards.
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A Brief History of WAP

The Wireless Application Protocol is a global standard for bringing Internet content and services to mobile phones and other wireless devices. The WAP standards suite is maintained by an industry consortium called the WAP Forum. Founded by Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, and Openwave (then known as Unwired Planet) in June 1997, the WAP Forum now includes hundreds of member companies that are infrastructure providers, software companies, and content providers. The goal of the WAP Forum is to address the problems of wireless Internet access, ensuring that access is not limited by vendor or underlying network technology. Since its creation, the Wireless Application Protocol has passed through minor revisions (from 1.0 to 1.1, 1.2, and 1.2.1). WAP 2 is the first major revision since 1998.

The problems solved by WAP include the following:

  • Protocol mismatch—Unlike the Internet, mobile networks (such as GSM and TDMA) are not inherently IP-based; they do not support the protocol of the Internet.

  • Device limitations—Mobile devices (cellular phones, pagers, and palmtops) are not ideal Web clients.

  • Usability—Usability is an issue, particularly with the limited size of mobile phones and pagers.

To address these issues, WAP defines a set of optimized protocols that can run over a wide variety of underlying cellular networks. It also specifies an application environment suited to small handled devices, including a display markup language (Wireless Markup Language, WML) and associated scripting language (WMLScript). Other standards cover push applications (useful for sending alerts and paging services) and telephony integration (such as initiating a voice call from a WML display page). For more information on WAP, check out the InformIT article "A WAP Primer."

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