WAP is dead.
June 13, 2001 6:34 AM   Subscribe

WAP is dead. Can the Mobile Services Initiative make the wireless Web really useful?
posted by tranquileye (19 comments total)
These are both examples of attempts at permanent solutions for transitory problems. They're attempting to get more data down through a very narrow pipe, but soon the technologies will change and it will be possible to move reasonable amounts of data through wireless links.

Too, they're trying to solve the problem of restricted displays on cell phones, but that too will be solved by technology.

The real answer is to stop trying to tailor a custom solution for cell phones, and to move to standard HTTP. And that's actually already happening; you can already get cell phones with moderately reasonable displays which can access normal HTTP sites.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:52 AM on June 13, 2001

of course, if you don't like how your cell phone displays web pages, or whatever internet activity you want to use it for, you can always roll your own.
posted by lescour at 7:47 AM on June 13, 2001

Maybe people could unplug for five fucking minutes!

Woah.... I sounded like my dad...
posted by dong_resin at 8:04 AM on June 13, 2001

The real real answer is to stop trying to jam worthless technology down our throats just for the sake of selling one more advert.
posted by briank at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2001

My question is, when is my toaster going to start talking to my microwave????
posted by brucec at 8:35 AM on June 13, 2001

WAP has been blamed for all the problems carriers have had selling the "wireless web"; I think it would be far more fair to blame things like:
  • Selling WAP as the wireless web, when it is nothing like the web at all. This has created an expectation for users that is nothing like their actual experience;
  • Not creating any compelling applications - it is possible with WAP, but nobody has done it, as no carrier seems to be able conceive of anything beyond "putting the web on the cellphone"
  • Coming up with the lamest possible usages for neat technologies like location based services - "Starbucks will beam a coupon to you when you walk by!" - that create zero (or even negative) desire for potential customer to get excited about the possibility of the technology.
All that said, the replacement of WAP is not a bad idea, as there is one aspect of it that drives me mad: connection time. Wireless data really needs to be instant-on to be useful for the kinds of quick data delivery handsets are currently capable of.
posted by icathing at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2001

Unfortunately, they are not planning to replace WAP at all. Read the GSM Association Q&A. AFAICT, m-services is just some sticking plaster on the existing WAP stuff.

It's interesting that Nokia are part of this - they were also at JavaOne last week promising to ship zillions of phones based on the (slightly useless-looking) Java MIDP, which isn't part of m-services from what I can see. So much for consistency across phones.

As icathing says, these guys have no real clue how this stuff will be used - the scenarios they come up with are hilarious.
posted by pascal at 9:11 AM on June 13, 2001

I for one am waiting for the cell phone that can allow people to have an actual conversation while moving. After that, then we can add all the audio/video and other puffery.
posted by owillis at 9:35 AM on June 13, 2001

pascal: actually midp seems pretty functional, at least on the motorola platform i linked above.

we already have a basic app running that interfaces to our brokering and monitoring software using sockets, not http, and gives some good informational displays and alarm functions.

it helped that our server stuff was already written to use a very low bandwidth protocol to talk to the clients.

oh, and i didn't win the bmw. crap.
posted by lescour at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2001

My question is, when is my toaster going to start talking to my microwave????

They have already done so, when you're not watching, and believe me, you're not going to like the results when they finally re-volt.
posted by kindall at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2001

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't really need my phone to do anything other than let me call other phones.

I can think of one use for this "wireless web" stuff, though: let me look stuff up in the phone book! 411 is nice, but I don't like having to pay $1.50 per call, and it'd be just as quick to type in the name of whatever it is I'm looking for and scroll through matches.

Then again, Qwestdex.com is a useless pain in the neck. I'd hate to try using a phone to get data out of *that* hunk of bloat.

The WAP folks have missed the point of the 'net. Despite billions of investment dollars and a vast PR campaign by just about everyone with a stake in it, the Internet has not yet been converted to a giant shopping mall. Its dominant applications (if you accept AOL as part of the Internet) remain those involved in person-to-person communication: email, chat rooms, and instant messaging. THAT is what the 'net is all about, and if the phone companies want people to use their phones to use the 'net, they need to focus on making those applications work first. Then they can sneak in and try to raid their pocketbooks.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:13 AM on June 13, 2001

lescour - I don't deny that MIDP works as specified, but it just seems to me that a java environment with no standard API for use of regular phone facilities like the address book or SMS is going to have limited usefulness as a consumer technology. Great for vertical apps, sure - but when it came to what the consumer might use it for, all you hear from the vendors is games, games and, umm... games. I don't think that will fly.
posted by pascal at 11:13 AM on June 13, 2001

pascal: we are in complete agreement on that point. as midp currently stands, i liken it somewhat to web applets. they have a niche functionality, but because of the inherent limitations of the sandbox security (not talking about signed applets. that's a huge hassle anyway) they can never do what i, or most users want.

same for midp cell phones. a great majority of the apps i can think of, besides games, involves having access to the the pda functions of the phone. address book, sms, last called/received numbers, etc. some standard has to come about if this technology is to reach a wide consumer audience.

you did leave off the obvious killer app tho. pr0n.
posted by lescour at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2001

Heck, some of them phones vibrate. No need to limit it to mere textual or visual representations of sexual activity.
posted by kindall at 12:04 PM on June 13, 2001

Mars - check out www.superpages.com on your phone, it's a reasonably decent 411 application, even though it is built by Verizon.

As for killer apps, I think the best use of the phone for a long time will be to provide a subset of the information you have on your computer: contacts, email (properly filtered!), alerts, etc. Not having to enter contact numbers into your phone when you get a new one would be a huge boon. Note that you can do this now - wap.yahoo.com provides access to your yahoo address book, which will import your contacts from several applications. This stuff is available now from many vendors and is really quite handy, but carriers seem content to try and sell you bs about how the wireless web will set you free and make you incredibly attractive to the opposite sex.
posted by icathing at 12:43 PM on June 13, 2001

lescour - I may have led a sheltered life, but I think pr0n for phones has already been done. I heard that you can even use it on a landline... and I have a feeling that MIDP has a way to go before it improves on the current user experience. :-)
posted by pascal at 1:48 PM on June 13, 2001

Two words, kindall: Battery life
posted by fooljay at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2001

icathing -- Exactly! For the most part, you don't need access to the WEB web on your wireless device. You need access to a) messaging b) your own personal information. I've been whinging about that for a while on my own site. heh.

My ideal wireless device scheme is something that will talk to the popular IM networks (as well as SMS), report my presence, and allow me access to a specific data repository so that information like contacts and calendars are available to me wherever I am -- wireless or sitting at my desktop.
posted by benbrown at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2001

i thought i would beat this thread into the ground.

ben: actually my ideal wireless device would simply act as a mobile voice/network access point. assume it has a bluetooth or similar tech in it. now my palm pilot (also assume it has a bluetooth add-on) can use the wireless device for network access. so can the map in my car, as well as other nifty devices that aren't even thought of yet.

that way i don't have to sign up for a bazillion different services to simply get access with whatever tools i happen to want to use.
posted by lescour at 8:38 PM on June 13, 2001

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