WAP Bashing is Misdirected
from the going-against-the-grain dept
Occasional Techdirt correspondent Derek Kerton has chimed in with his latest offering, suggesting that WAP is not as bad as we’ve all been claiming it is. He definitely provides a different perspective, and one that is worth reading. I’m not sure I’m convinced yet, but I can be a little too skeptical for my own good. Click below to read what Derek has to say. Then, feel free to comment and tell us if we’ve been too harsh on WAP or if Derek is just trying to make excuses for a horrible standard.WAP is Not That Bad
by Derek Kerton
Now that the Good Ship WAP has been overhyped and is sailing into the stormy waters of the Sea of Implementation, a growing number of journalists and self-appointed wireless pundits have started taking pot shots over the ship's bow. We in the industry are partly to blame for setting expectations too high, but don't blame WAP if you're not satisfied.
WAP is not to blame for the majority of the complaints against it. It is a decent standard, which makes it easy for companies like mine to develop content that will work similarly across a wide range of devices from multiple manufacturers. And unlike some 'other' standard, this one is open and is modified by the various members of the WAP forum. It is hard to understate the value of a standard in advancing an industry, so why the glut of WAP-bashers? Blame poor design, corner-cutting companies, and misunderstanding.
A serious misunderstanding is to expect the phone-based Internet to remotely resemble the WWW. The web is a multimedia, multicolor, large-screen medium with multiple navigational paths and deep, rich content. The phone screen sucks. The WWW is like the Sunday all-you-can-eat buffet at your local roadhouse, and using a I-phone is like going to the buffet with a salad plate. You can't get all the richness and variety of the buffet on your plate - you can only take a subset that you like best with you.
Let's disaggregate the web page, which many mistakenly think IS the Internet. Web pages are just aggregations of information. The fundamental element is the information, not the web page. Information is the building block from which web pages can be built, just as one can use info to build a book, a TV show, a magazine, a speech, or a candy bar wrapper. The Internet is just the conduit for the information that carries it from one place to another using TCP/IP. The web page is but one manifestation of the info that happens to be designed for your 17" monitor, pirated software-laden, picture-of-your-dog-screensaver, PC. Here's the rub, that manifestation, the WWW page, will not fit on the phone. It will look like something that dog in your screensaver left behind.
eCompany.com observes, "websites, even after conversion to WAP, are designed to be viewed on a large desktop, not a minuscule cell-phone screen." I state once and for all WEBSITES SHOULD NEVER BE CONVERTED TO WAP. Whomever designs or launches such a WAPsite is causing the entire industry to take a step backward. WAP pages should be built, ground-up, from the fundamental building block of information, with a good design that takes into account the screen size, the I/O limitations, the mobile nature of the device, and the limited navigational controls.
Most people assume that the Internet is a medium, and that WWW pages = Internet. Not so. The Internet is a transport protocol, the WWW is one single medium, Internet-enabled phones are another, and home Internet appliances and webpads yet others. The lines between the media are fading, but they still exist. With the growing number of devices and media, it's tempting to try to re-use work, ex: by cramming a webpage into a phone using some crappy software transcoder. To do the job well requires effort and cost; content providers like my company have to prepare the information specifically for each medium, QA test it, and then test it with users. To cut corners simply results in dissatisfied users - like the pundits now bashing WAP. Don't blame WAP, blame the companies that want to jump on the wireless bandwagon without doing the necessary work.
Wireless applications can give people instant access to vital pieces of information, let them read a joke, raise a bid on an auction, or trade stock on the spot. We application providers can build a good phone app that lets you do almost any brief activity that interacts with information on the Internet. Let us know what you want to do from a phone, and we will eventually build it - just don't tell us you want to "surf the web" or everyone will be disappointed.
Sr. Mgr. - Wireless
Walt Disney Internet Group.
air.go.com or go.com on your phone
Useful application ideas can be sent to Derek Kerton at firstname.lastname@example.org