Derided as a fiddly and slow version of the Internet, WAP (or the wireless application protocol) has come to be seen as one of the mobile industry’s greatest failings.
But perhaps it was written off prematurely. WAP usage has grown steadily in the last 12 months, pointing to a growing appetite for wireless Internet content and commerce among consumers and business users.
Better handsets – with larger, colour screens – faster access over enhanced GPRS networks and bundled WAP airtime has helped to boost the numbers. And, while the number of pure WAP sites available to mobile users outside the networks’ own portals is still low, there are good things out there for users willing to persevere.
National Rail Enquiries is an example of this: a simple, text-based site that finds train times, often more quickly than a human operator. But finding it the first time, from a PDA or smartphone, can be a challenge.
Nonetheless, the Mobile Data Association (MDA), a UK wireless industry body, projects that the number of WAP page impressions will reach close to 10 billion for 2003: by November, the most recent month available, UK users were accessing 8.2 billion pages a month. And they looked at 31 million WAP pages each day, up from 12 million a day the previous year.