Moving at WAP

By Frank Derfler  |  Posted 05-01-2001 Print Email

Moving at WAP-speed

Finally, you're going to need to know WAP (Wireless Application Protocol). It's a must if you're going to start writing wireless applications. As you probably know by now, the primary technology for wireless is WML (Wireless Markup Language), a display language, and WMLScript, a language derived from JavaScript. The WAP Forum's Web site ( is stocked with information and white papers for those who want to delve deeper.

But the fastest way to get WAP-ready is to hire some experts. Companies with names like Brience, Everypath, GadgetSpace, NetMorf and 2Roam are among the early wireless integrators. You can also wire up this way in-house. Many wireless integrators also give you the option of keeping the servers in their facilities, and have you up and running in a matter of weeks.

WAP is powerful, but it can't do everything. Developers are creating ways to selectively push information to WAP-enabled devices. But WAP developers agree on one point: You won't get the best results by asking a WAP gateway to translate a typical media-rich Web site. It's much better to keep it simple for now, and develop specific Web pages for WAP devices. Think in black and white, too, and use limited menus and short text strings—and you'll be well on your way to defining a wireless access system that works.

Other wireless interface standards, such as Short Messaging Service and iMode, could be slightly less appealing for business uses than WAP. Why? SMS is making its way into the U.S. from Japan. It allows users to send text messages to other compatible mobile handsets and other Net-powered devices. Users can compose messages or select from standard messages and create fast yes/no responses to common queries. It's an impressive system, but for now, you're probably better off sticking with WAP. At the moment, iMode is not quite ready for America. At least for now, almost all iMode-compatible devices operate in Japan and use Japanese characters.

Still think wireless might be more of a headache than a help? Remember that nothing is irretrievable or final. You can start out small and simply add capacity as you go. Nothing you do with wireless should preclude anything else. And better still, you can implement voice access at the same time you launch WAP applications—without conflicting with anything, other than, say, your own attention span.

Frank Derfler is a member of Ziff Davis Market Experts, specializing in networking and communications coverage. He has spent 15 years writing for PC Magazine and other publications.


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