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What is WAP/WML Hosting?
The small screens and limited resources available on mobile devices require a special approach to content creation and delivery. Consequently, mobile web content can be created in Wireless Markup Language (WML), to be delivered to phones and tablets via the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). These two components simplify application requirements and streamline performance.
The Rise of the Mobile Web
When the World Wide Web was first becoming popular in the 1990s, the way to access it was by using your desktop computer.
But computers have continued to get smaller and smaller. Consumers buy more smartphones than computers nowadays, and mobile Internet traffic is quickly eclipsing PC traffic any way you measure it.
The rise of the mobile Web has created a need for content that’s friendly to smartphones and tablets. These devices don’t always have the raw processing power to handle the torrential rush of information pouring into them from the Internet, and their small screens mean that some content, sized for the increasingly huge flat-screen monitors of today, is either too large to display or rendered cartoonishly small when sized for a mobile screen.
Many of us are familiar with the frustration of using a mobile device to try to access a website that was designed only with large screens in mind. It’s not surprising that websites that aren’t mobile-friendly often have lower search engines rankings, less traffic, higher bounce rates, and lower conversions than mobile-friendly websites.
Methods for Creating Mobile-Friendly Websites
Web designers and developers have come up with a few different ways to tackle the problem of creating a mobile-friendly experience for their users.
Some choose to simply create a smartphone app, and not worry about optimizing their website for mobile users. While an app can allow you to have more control over user experience, there’s no guarantee your visitors will go to the trouble of downloading an app, especially if they’ve been frustrated by trying to access your website on mobile. Making your website mobile-friendly is a better option for users who are unable or unwilling to download or run your app.
There are two main options for creating a mobile-friendly website: either creating one responsive design that automatically changes depending on the screen size of the user, or creating a separate mobile-friendly design.
While creating maintaining one responsive website may seem like the easier option, trying to make the same design work on very different devices can negatively affect user experience, and cause technical difficulties with some browsers.
Creating a separate mobile website enables you to optimize your website for mobile users and the technology they are using. A website build for mobile devices will load much faster than a resource-intensive one meant for PCs.
Creating Mobile Websites With WML and WAP
Creating a separate mobile website? Enter WML, the Wireless Markup Language. A streamlined version of the popular Extensible Markup Language (XML), WML is used to code content that’s specifically designed to display or run on mobile devices. If you’ve ever been to a website on your phone and received a "mobile-friendly" version of the site or page you’re visiting, chances are it was written using WML.
WML has been in use since the late 1990s to display content on mobile phones, and is designed to create content that falls anywhere between two lines of text and the maximum resolution of your smartphone or tablet.
Of course, while WML might be the vehicle that delivers the content in your mobile browsing experience, it still needs a highway on which it can travel to do so. That’s where the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) comes in. Much like the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) used by traditional browsers, WAP is a secured file specification that allows users to access content on mobile devices. Like WML, it’s optimized for smartphones and tablets, and it currently supports all of the major wireless carriers’ networks, including CDMA and GSM. It runs in all operating systems, but some operating systems are created specifically for it, including Microsoft’s Windows CE and JavaOS.
WML/WAP Versus HTML
With the capabilities of modern smartphones continually increasing, the use of HTML and XHTML are gaining in popularity for some mobile websites.
On the other hand, WML is optimized for devices with limited keyboard functionality and processing capability, and although those limits are expanding, most mobile users continue to prefer a clean, streamlined interface and content set when accessing the Internet from their mobile device.
Which is not to say "streamlined" means "stripped down." Many websites coded in WML duplicate the functionality of their big-screen counterparts (including search functions, profile access and more) in a simpler, touch-friendly way. WML supports many of the same common elements used in HTML including hyperlinks, forms, images, navigation, and more.
Finding a Host That Supports WML and WAP
If you generate content specifically for mobile customers, or want to ensure users can access your site regardless of device, you’ll need to make sure your hosting plan supports these technologies.
Most hosts should be able to support WAP and WML content natively, and since both language and protocol are free, there should be no additional cost to you. Always check with your hosting provider, however, to ensure the server you select is configured to process WML and WAP content properly.