The response was WAP – the Wireless Access Protocol. This was a way to deliver the texty bits of the web to mobile phones that, at the time, lacked the high-res colour displays we take for granted today. The result – well, it’s possible that WAP was nothing more than a piece of rhyming slang.
The problem was that the world was just getting used to everyone having a computer with a mouse, keyboard and pretty user interface. WAP felt like a step back in time to the days of terminals adorned with only boring text and numbers. So, while the communications infrastructure was there, users just didn’t embrace WAP in a big way. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s that the web really started to get mobile.
In the early days of getting the web on a smartphone there were two big players – Palm and Microsoft. The Treo and all the different Windows Mobile handsets were able to connect to the net and the web was opened up to us anywhere we wanted. Of course, with screens that were rarely larger than 320 by 240, quarter VGA, we discovered that we needed a new browser experience.
Both Palm and Microsoft tried to reformat pages on the fly so that they’d fit onto the smaller screen, but it took the wider uptake of smarter web development technologies to detect mobile browsers and intelligently reformat pages for the target.
Today, the web browsers on modern handsets do a far better job. Screen resolutions are higher, displays are larger and the world is used to delivering mobile content. It’s reasonable to say that the iPhone changed the way people expect the web to work on their phones. But the good news is that the bar has been raised and most handset software developers have lifted their game significantly.
MobileModo is Gizmodo Australia’s look at the rise and rise of the mobile phone, from Bell’s landline to the ubiquitous mobiles of today.