Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is an open international standard for applications that use wireless communication, for example Internet access from a mobile phone.
The official body developing WAP is the WAP Forum.
WAP was intended as a mobile replacement for the World Wide Web. However, its idiosyncratic protocols cut users off from the true HTML / HTTP Web, leaving only native WAP content and Web-to-WAP proxy content available to WAP users.
WAP was hyped at the time of its introduction, leading users to expect WAP to have the performance of the Web. One telco's advertising showed a cartoon WAP user "surfing" through a Neuromancer-like "information space". In terms of speed, ease of use, appearance and interoperability, the reality fell far short of expectations. This led to the unkind, but widely used phrases: "WAP is crap", "Worthless Application Protocol", "Wait And Pay".
The main reasons for the failure of WAP were price and closedness. Even though GPRS made WAP cheap, and cell phone operators opened their gateways to access all of the Internet, WAP did not quite take off.
The primary language of the WAP specification is WML, the Wireless Markup Language, which is similar to a restricted version of HTML with extra phone-specific features added.
The new version of WAP, WAP 2.0, is effectively a complete re-engineering of WAP using XML. Many observers predict that this next-generation WAP will converge with, and be replaced by, true Web access to pocket devices. XHTML Basic, a subset of XHTML, is made to work in mobile devices.
This article (or an earlier version of it) contains material from FOLDOC, used with permission.
See also : iMode.