WAP Forum CEO responds to Reg

He's not in total agreement with our synopsis

We wrote a story about the possible future of the much-maligned WAP protocol. Scott Goldman, the CEO of the body behind WAP, WAP Forum, responded in depth. The letter consisted of the Reg story in full, with comments inserted at various points. We've cut our story out of the piece to keep the size down.

We said the WAP protocol was falling apart because of its bad image and the success of i-Mode

Far from falling apart, the standard, and the support for it, has been growing at extraordinary levels. Going from 250 members in December of 1999 to 555 members today indicates, in fact, just the opposite of your comment - WAP is gaining momentum.

Secondly, iMode has more subscribers, but is it really more successful? iMode has been around for almost two years and only one company has adopted it. WAP has been commercial for about a year and has the support of 500+ companies. Why is it that all of these companies haven't jumped on the iMode bandwagon? Could it be that they see the benefit of a global, open standard?

We posited that WAP version two will be a hybrid of the existing WAP and i-Mode

A hybrid approach will only be reached if iMode is moving towards an XML world. WML, the core markup language of WAP, is built on a platform of XML - Compact HTML (cHTML) is not. As the Internet world continues its inexorable march towards XML, only those technologies that are built on that platform will continue to move forward. WAP will not incorporate cHTML for that very reason.

WAP "2.0", as you refer to it, has become a catchphrase for the next generation of WAP ("WAP-NG"). WAP continues to evolve daily - we anticipate another release in Q3 2000 that will incorporate end-to-end security and full support for PKI. Additional features such as large file downloading, multimedia, animation, etc., are already being built into WAP. The WAP you see today won't be the same as the WAP you see tomorrow any more than Mosaic 1.0 is the same as today's version of Netscape. It's an evolving standard.

We said i-Mode's success was due to its improved useability (ach! did we really just use that word) and instinctive feel

A couple of points here. First, we applaud iMode's success because it proves the business model. Our members are delighted to see that a commercial implementation of wireless/mobile Internet access is appealing enough for people to pay for.

Next, one of the reasons behind iMode's rapid take-up that seems to escape many people is the sheer lack of penetration and wired Internet access in Japan. For many people, iMode is the only way that they ever have, or can, access the Internet. While iMode is making penetration into the market with horoscopes and cartoons (a huge portion of their subscribers are teenagers, who, like teenagers around the world that chat on AOL or Yahoo! Messenger, are focused on the consumer aspects of the Internet), WAP is making huge progress into the enterprise world. Siebel, Microsoft, Lotus and others have created compelling, mission-critical WAPplications that are already proving successful in the B2B side of the equation.

You are entirely correct, of course, that DoCoMo, being the only company working on this, can easily dictate specifications to content developers and manufacturers. It's always easier if one company sets the policy for the rest of the world than it is for a democratic process to occur. In the final analysis, however, a democratic, consensus-driven process will benefit consumers, carriers and content developers because it will mean a more broadly accepted standard that addresses issues of concern to users in all geographies and levels.

Too many cooks spoil the broth and the WAP protocol we argued

Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but I doubt if you would like to be fed what one chef decides is good for you day after day whether you like it or not.

We said: "Put simply: WAP has the brand, i-Mode has the approach".

Sorry, but in my opinion you've got it exactly backwards. iMode has created a wonderful brand. But the differences in approach (one company's preference vs. a consensus of 500+ companies) is clearly in WAP's favor.

We ran through the advantages/disadvantages of both WAP and i-Mode

WAP also supports the "always-on" packet connections you refer to. We're ready for GPRS or any other type of packet service. iMode was built on a packet data system - a highly proprietary one, by the way, that was never adopted by even one other company anywhere in the world. When the carriers deploy packet services WAP will work on them. As far as color - we're already building that into the specification, but the handset manufacturers haven't built that capability into their products yet. We're ahead of the market.

What will be the future language of WAP. Out come all the prefixed HTMLs (C, X, H?)

XML is the future language of the Internet. WAP (WML) is built on that platform. No other wireless Internet technology is built on XML.

We said we wanted WAP 1.0 thrown in the bin but the people behind it may be unwilling to do so in order to save face

Keeping face doesn't have a thing to do with it. A commitment to not obsolete equipment, sites and gateways with every new version benefits developers and the consumer. You probably wouldn't like it very well if your new version of Netscape couldn't access your favorite site that was built a couple of years ago.

Security?

WAP's next release in Q3 2000 will incorporate full end-to-end security and support for PKI. It will be as secure as an SSL-secure site on the wired web.

We said that hopefully WAP 2.0 will be largely based on HTML

HTML doesn't take into account limited RAM, limited ROM, one-finger navigation, latency of delivery, coverage gaps, location-based information and other issues that are highly wireless-specific. No matter what else occurs - 3G, GPRS, whatever - WML browsers will always be required to handle those peculiarities - and strengths - inherent in wireless technology.

Maybe that's why our 500+ members, who represent virtually all of the world's leading companies who depend on HTML for their wired-Internet sites, are all fully supportive of WAP.

Kind regards,
Scott Goldman

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