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This document contains the terminology used in the Mobile Web Best Practices and TechniquesIntro document.


The process of altering content to enhance the user experience on particular devices is referred to as Content Adaptation. This could be as simple as determining a device's type and capabilities, and choosing the most appropriate set of previously prepared content. More dynamic adaptations are also possible, even involving the determination of a device's given state (e.g. whether a keyboard is attached for input, or not).

Server Side adaptation

implies that the content is delivered by the originating content server or application.

In Network adaptation

is where the content is altered as it passes through one or more network components. Some network operators, for example, compress images before they are passed over the air to the mobile device.

Client Side adaptation

consists of the device accepting content and displaying it in an appropriate way for its characteristics.

Best Practices

The W3C Mobile Web Best Practices document is on the verge of becoming a W3C Recommendation, pending implementation reports and final approval from the W3C. The goal of this document is to help content providers improve the user experience of the Web when accessed from mobile devices. It is a set of guidelines primarily directed at creators, maintainers, and operators of Web sites, and refers to the delivered content, and not the processes by which the content is created, nor the devices or user agents to which it is delivered.


"Compact HTML" is a subset of the HTML 3.2 markup language designed for NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service. Compact HTML for Small Information Appliances was submitted as a W3C note in February 1998 by ACCESS, a Japanese handset manufacturer. It excludes some elements ("tags") that are in HTML (e.g. the frame element) since such elements were not deemed appropriate for mobile devices by the designers of cHTML.

Checker (Conformance Checker)

The W3C has alpha-released a tool that checks conformance against the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices. Most of the machine-testable clauses of the Best Practices document are checked by this software tool.

Default Delivery Context

The term "Delivery Context" is used to refer to attributes classifying the capabilities of the device in question (including the software used to access the Web -- namely, the user agent -- and modality -- e.g. keyboard presence, etc.), the preferences of the user, and any other aspects of the context into which a Web page is to be delivered.

When nothing can be adequately determined about the capabilities of the device that is requesting Web content, the Mobile Web Best Practices document defines a Default Delivery Context to help content providers create their mobile presentation. It is expected that the Default Delivery context will change over time, it is defined in the Best Practices document.


Handheld Device Markup Language was first proposed by Unwired Planet (which eventually became Openwave) in 1996. It was conceptually similar to HTML, but targeted mobile devices. It eventually became Wireless Markup Language (WML)


mobileOK is a labeling scheme still being worked out by the W3C to provide machine-readable labels that can be applied to content to indicate that the content and its delivery have passed a suite of tests based on the Mobile Web Best Practices document. It is currently envisaged to consist of mobileOK Level 1, for primarily machine testable conformance to the Best Practices, and mobileOK Level 2, which is a superset of the Level 1 tests, and are not all machine verifiable.

Mobile Web

The Mobile Web is the expression typically used to describe users' experience when accessing the Web from mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs.


The Open Mobile Alliance is a standards body (just like W3C) and develops open standards for the mobile industry. Standards propagated by the OMA include XHTML-MP (PDF Document).

User Agent

A user agent is the term given to the client software application used with a particular network protocol (e.g. HTTP), most typically to access the World Wide Web. Examples of user agents include the commonly known desktop browsers (such as Opera, Firefox, Safari and IE), as well as device browsers (such as those provided by Openwave and Opera).


The Wireless Application Protocol (latest active specification is WAP 2.0 (PDF document)) is an open international standard for applications that use wireless communication, and is maintained by the Open Mobile Alliance. It stipulates both protocols and information formats for wireless applications. While WAP 1.0 was engineered to work with distinct protocols and the use of WML (Wireless Markup Language) for content markup, WAP 2.0 stipulates end-to-end HTTP and XHTML-MP, a cut down version of XHTML. This keeps it more in tune with the markup format(s) of the World Wide Web, since WML was a distinct format and content had to be adapted to WML in order to render on devices. More devices support XHTML-MP now, thus leading the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group to stipulate its default delivery context as being a device that supports XHTML Basic.


Wireless Markup Language is an evolution of HDML (Handheld Device Markup Language), proposed by Openwave. It is an XML-compliant format, and is similar to HTML in that in provides forms, navigational support, data input, hyperlinks, and presentations including text and images. It is still suported on a large variety of devices, and is maintained as a standard by the Open Mobile Alliance. Markups based on XHTML are likely to succeed WML as content markup for mobile applications.


XHTML is a reformulation of HTML 4 as an XML application. It involves stricter validation rules (you have to pay more attention to element nesting and correct use of elements -- you have to close your tags, for example) and is also usually served with a different MIME type than HTML files.

XHTML has been *modularized* so that some of the elements have been grouped together for different purposes. These elemental groupings are called modules. XHTML Basic is one such modularization. The following XHTML specifications exist:


XHTML Basic is a modularization of XHTML, including the minimal set of modules so that it is a suitable XHTML host language document type. XHTML Basic is the basis for XHTML-MP (XHTML Mobile Profile, below), used as the markup language for mobile devices.


XHTML Mobile Profile 1.0 is the official markup language of WAP 2.0, supplanting WML in WAP 1.0. It uses the XHTML Basic modularization of XHTML, and adds some elements and attributes from the full version of XHTML. It is widely assumed that XHTML-MP will supplant WML as the main markup language on devices in the future. The XHTML-MP specification (PDF document) is maintained by the OMA.

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