Position Paper for W3C/WAP Workshop on the Multimodal Web

Author: YOSHIHAMA Sachiko (FAMILY Given),SEC Co., Ltd.

SEC Co., Ltd., founded in 1970, has given continuous attention to the activity of the WAP Forum since its establishment, and joined it in January 1999 as the first software developer member from Japan. SEC has contributed WAP's standardization process mainly in Wireless Application Group. SEC has also developed several WAP products including WAPSimulator, WAP Simulation & Authoring Tool, and WAPSDK, a series of component products for WAP content encoding/decoding.


WML is a tag-based markup language based on XML. It is optimised for specifying presentation and user interaction on limited capability devices such as telephones and other wireless mobile terminals. WML and its supporting environment were designed with certain small narrow-band device constraints in mind including small displays, limited user-input facilities, narrow band network connections, limited memory resources and limited computational resources. Given the wide and varying range of terminals targeted by WAP, considerable effort was put into the proper distribution of presentation responsibility between the author and the browser implementation.

In the WAP Next Generation, WAP Forum is trying to achieve higher level convergence with Internet technologies; namely, convergence with XHTML Basic is the next big goal of the WAP-NG. WML. In addition to basic features comprised in XHTML Basic, WML will includes advanced features optimised for mobile environment including:

Market Analysis

Regardless of its technical advantages, in author's opinion, it is hardly said that WML is very successful in the market. For example, in Japan, there are three types of data communication services on the mobile phone. The following table shows the outline of these services as of July 31, 2000 (Source: Telecommunications Carriers Association):

Table 1: Data Communication Services in Japan
Service Name Number of Subscribers Markup Language
i-mode 9,786,000 C-HTML
EZweb 3,048,900 HDML/WML1.0
J-Sky 2,201,000 MML (HTML based language)

Though there are no WML1.1 or later based services, we may say that the service using HTML based languages are more successful than what using HDML/WML in Japan.

Why? - there may be various factors that affect success in the market, and the fuller study of these factors lies outside the scope of this paper. However, if we focus on only the difference of the markup languages, it seems reasonable to suppose that it is because the market is more familiar with HTML. Actually, the evolution of the Internet has created a lot of HTML resources; e.g., HTML browsers, authoring tools, how-to-create HTML homepage guidebooks, and knowledge of content providers. It seems reasonable to suppose such resources accelerated growth of amount and quality of contents; and large quantities and good quality of contents has attracted end users.

In addition, XML based technologies may make it more difficult for content providers to author contents. Because of its strict policy on correctness of the document, it is usually more difficult to author XML contents than HTML contents without efficient authoring tools. We may also say that XML based technologies (e.g., XHTML or WML) are not user or content provider friendly; it is manufactures or browser developers who reap the benefit from the XML's strict policy, and end users may hardly see the difference. If there are no significant features that are introduced by new technologies...

SEC's Position

SEC believes that WAP should converge with W3C Internet technologies to realize more efficient use of the mobile Internet. The migration from one successful technology to another is generally difficult, however, we believe it could happen when the new technology satisfies better features and usability.

It is obvious that the voice technology is suitable for mobile terminals that WAP aims to because speech is the natural usage of mobile phones. We can expect that the voice technology will complement the poor input/output capability of the mobile phone, and may introduce something more useful than what we have today.

We believe that the workshop should identify issues with the convergence, and output from the workshop should address the plan of convergence between VoiceXML and WML.