Version 1.1, September 28, 1998
This document is a NOTE made available by the W3 Consortium for discussion only. This indicates no endorsement of its content, nor that the Consortium has, is, or will be allocating any resources to the issues addressed by this NOTE.
This paper outlines possible areas of cooperation between the WAP Forum and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The WAP Forum is dedicated to enabling advanced services and applications on mobile wireless devices, such as cellular telephones. The W3C is dedicated to leading and advancing the development of the World Wide Web. This document describes the problem area of mobile access to information on the web, which is common to the two groups.
While the WAP Forum and the W3C have different organizational goals, we share goals for the future of the global information space. We also want to avoid unnecessary divergence between the recommendations and standards of the two organizations.
Direct overlaps in future development occur in the areas of intelligent proxies and protocol design; of XML applications; and in content adaption, e.g through the use of vector graphics and style sheets. Instead of developing diverging sets of solutions, it is the intent of both groups to find common solutions.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was founded in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. The web had then outgrown the European Centre for Nuclear Physics Research, CERN, where the web was developed.
From the beginning, Tim Berners-Lee has been the director of the consortium, and has been firmly committed to developing a neutral, open forum for the evolution of web technology.
Today, the W3C has three locations (at MIT in the USA; at INRIA in France; and at Keio University in Japan). The consortium has more than 270 members from industry and academia, and provides a vendor-neutral forum for its members to address web-related issues. Working with its staff and the global web community, the consortium aims to produce free, interoperable specifications; like its partner standards body, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the W3C is committed to backing its specifications by sample code. Funding from membership dues, public research funds, and external contracts underwrite these efforts. The work in the W3C follow a well-documented process, continuously involving representatives of the member companies in its efforts. More information can be found at the consortium web site.
In the autumn of 1997, it became evident that there was a considerable interest among the members of the W3C for access to the web via mobile and wireless devices. This area appeared to entail several aspects which constrained the usage in manners not considered in the current recommendations.
A workshop on mobile web access was organised in April of 1998 in Tokyo to address these topics, leading to the formation of a mobile access interest group that is chartered with the investigation of the impact of mobile access on the specifications and recommendations of the W3C.
Simultaneously, the W3C was approached by the WAP Forum, and a meeting was set up in June 1998. The results were very positive, and the meeting decided to create this joint white paper, outlining areas of potential cooperation between the two groups.
The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) Forum is an industry group dedicated to the goal of enabling sophisticated telephony and information services on hand-held wireless devices such as mobile telephones, pagers, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other wireless terminals. Recognizing the value and utility of the World Wide Web architecture, the WAP Forum has chosen to align certain components of its technology very tightly with the Internet and the WWW. The WAP specifications extend and leverage mobile networking technologies (such as digital data networking standards) and Internet technologies (such as IP, HTTP, XML, URLs, scripting and other content formats).
The WAP specification initiative began in June 1997 and the WAP Forum was founded in December 1997. The WAP Forum has drafted a global wireless protocol specification for all wireless networks and will contribute it to appropriate industry and standards bodies. WAP will enable manufacturers, network operators, content providers and application developers to offer compatible products and secure services on all devices and networks, resulting in greater economies of scale and universal access to information. WAP Forum membership is open to all industry participants.
The objectives of the WAP Forum are:
More information on the WAP Forum can be found at the Wap Forum Web server.
In keeping with its goals, the WAP Forum approached the W3C regarding collaboration in the area of WWW technologies in the wireless area.
Providing Internet and WWW services on a wireless data network presents many challenges. Most of the technology developed for the Internet has been designed for desktop and larger computers supporting medium to high bandwidth connectivity over generally reliable data networks.
Mass-market, hand-held wireless devices present a more constrained computing environment compared to desktop computers. Because of fundamental limitations of power and form factor, mass-market handheld devices tend to have:
Similarly, wireless data networks present a more constrained communication environment compared to wired networks. Because of fundamental limitations of power, available spectrum, and mobility, wireless data networks tend to have:
Mobile networks are growing in complexity and the cost of providing new value-added services to wireless users is increasing. In order to meet the requirements of mobile network operators, solutions must be:
Wireless network bearers operate under several fundamental constraints, which place restrictions on the type of protocols and applications offered over the network:
Wireless devices operate under a set of physical limitations, imposed by their mobility and form factor:
Mobile wireless devices are characterized by a different set of user interface constraints than a personal computer. To enable a consistent application programming model, a very wide range of content scalability is required. In practice, a significant amount of the current WWW content is unsuitable for use on hand-held wireless devices. Problems include:
Many wireless devices, for example cellular phones and pagers, are consumer devices. These devices are used in a wide variety of environments and under a wide range of use scenarios. For example:
The World Wide Web Consortium has as its motto "Leading the Web to its full potential", which means leading and participating in the continuing development of the Web and its standards. The new generation of Web technologies that is currently being specified by the W3C is intended to enhance the users' and publishers' control over the presentation of the information (e.g. through CSS), over the management of information (e.g. through RDF), and over its distribution (e.g. through P3P); based on technologies that structure and distribute data as objects, such as XML and HTTP-NG. Several areas will impact the use of technologies developed by the W3C in mobile environments.
The work of the W3C in this field is initiated and maintained through its Mobile Access Interest Group. Work which touches on the mobility of the user access devices is conducted in several areas, however. Specifically, the Mobile Access Interest Group is reviewing the HTML 4.0 specification for mobile aspects; investigating how user agent profile information can be managed within the W3C technology framework; and investigating position dependent information services. Due to the scope of mobile access, all areas of the W3C might concievably be involved in the future. Below, we point to some of those where mobile access may have an immediate impact.
The W3C has recently decided to initiate an activity to create a new generation of HTML. This will be based on XML, and is likely to include features that makes it more efficient for mobile use.
Meanwhile, other XML applications such as the Wireless Markup Language, WML, and the Synchronised Multimedia, SMIL, will continue to appear. These are likely to have components where mobile access will have an impact.
XML is also contiuing to develop into a full-featured system for information structuring.
More information about the HTML-NG activity
More information about XML
The W3C has created a Working Group, which will be chartered to produce a specification for a Scalable Vector Graphics format, written as a modular XML tagset and usable as an XML namespace, which can be widely implemented in browsers and authoring tools and which is suitable for widespread adoption by the content authoring community as a replacement for many current uses of raster graphics. For simple cases such as trivial inline graphics, it should be possible to hand author the SVG format, and it should be possible to cut and paste SVG graphical objects between documents and preserve their appearance, linking behavior and style.
This will mean that the graphics in Web documents will be smaller, faster, more interactive, and be displayable on a wider range of device resolutions from small mobile devices through office computer monitors to high resolution printers.
More information on the working group
In the presentation model for the new generation of web technologies, the formatting of a document is conducted through the use of a style sheet. This is a separate document which allows authors and users to attach style (e.g., fonts, spacing, and aural cues) to structured documents (e.g., HTML documents and XML applications). By separating the presentation style of documents from the content of documents, CSS2 and XSL simplifies Web and XML authoring and site maintenance. Local processing of a document might in the future also be conducted using a similar technology, called action sheets. Style sheets can have media-specific properties, which makes them a possible candidate for use with mobile devices.
More information on style sheets.
The programmatical handling of a document is defined in the Document Object Model, a platform- and language-neutral interface that will allow programs and scripts to dynamically access and update the content, structure and style of documents. The Document Object Model provides a standard set of objects for representing HTML and XML documents, a standard model of how these objects can be combined, and a standard interface for accessing and manipulating them.
More information on the Document Object Model.
The purpose of the HTTP-NG activity is to design, implement, and test a new architecture for the HTTP protocol, based on a simple, extensible, distributed object-oriented model. This includes a protocol for the management of the network connections (WEBMUX), a protocol for transmitting messages between systems (WIRE), a set of methods, interfaces and objects that demonstrates a classical Web browsing case, as an example of what is possible with the new protocol; and a test bed to test the implementation.
More information on the HTTP-NG activity.
Accessibility for people with disabilities is relevant for mobile wireless devices as this is a potentially large marketplace (over 10% of the population), and in some cases accessibility is required (e.g. for sales in the US, under Section 255 of the US Telecommunications Act). In addition, functions, such as speech input or output, required to accommodate different kinds of disability have carry-over benefits for non-disabled users of mobile devices, who may be using the devices in "hands-free" or "eyes-free" situations.
W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in coordination with other organizations is addressing Web accessibility through several areas of work; two of these, technology and guidelines, relate to mobile wireless devices.
In the area of technology, WAI liaises with W3C Working Groups developing technologies which can facilitate accessibility, such as HTML, CSS, SMIL, SVG. In the area of guidelines, WAI is developing guidelines for accessible page authoring, for user agents, and for authoring tools, and coordinating with the development of guidelines by the Mobile Access Interest Group.
More information about the Web Accessibility Initiative.
The correct representations of characters is an issue in all formats of writing, not just the Latin alphabet. The aim of this activity is for the World Wide Web to live up to its name, and the W3C continues work on the internationalization of the Web, with the aim of ensuring that the necessary features are included in W3C protocols and data format recommendations. The general goal of W3C's work on internationalization is to ensure that W3C's formats and protocols are usable world wide in all languages and writing systems.
More information about the internationalisation activity.
Our current focus is, broadly, on establishing trust in the new medium of the Web. This is a difficult problem, involving both social and technical issues. Trust is established through a complex and ill-understood social mechanism including relationships, social norms, laws, regulations, traditions, and track records. Our activities are chosen to focus on specific areas that are both important and tractable.
There is a core of technical issues that are required in any system that is to be trusted:
More information on the metadata activity
The WAP Forum's exclusive focus is mobile wireless technologies. The goal of WAP is to create recommendations and specifications that support the creation of advanced services on wireless devices, with particular emphasis on the mobile telephone. The WAP Forum is creating recommendations and technologies which enable these services on all mobile devices and on all networks.
The WAP Forum has undertaken a variety of technical specification work relevant to the W3C/WAP Forum collaborative efforts. These efforts all relate to the use of World Wide Web technology on mobile devices, and ensuring that the quality of these services is sufficient for mass deployment.
WAP is focused on enabling the interconnection of the Web and wireless terminals. Significant focus has been given to mobile telephones and pagers, but all technology has been developed with broader applicability in mind. The goal of WAP is to enable an extremely wide range of wireless terminals, range from mass-market mobile telephones and pagers to more powerful devices, to enjoy the benefits of Web technology and interconnection.
Mobile devices have a unique set of features which must be exposed into the Web, in order to enable the creation of advanced telephony services, including:
The WAP Forum is actively exploring solutions and specifications in these areas. Future technical work will address the ongoing evolution of wireless networks and mobile communication devices, including such issues as the integration of Third Generation wireless networking technology.
The WAP Forum is working to increase the bandwidth efficiency of Web technology, to make it more applicable to the wireless environment. WAP Forum work includes:
The WAP Forum is working to improve the behavior of Web technology in the face of high network latencies, and in particular is focusing on the problems of:
WAP Forum work in this area includes:
Mobile wireless devices are characterized by a different set of user interface constraints than a personal computer. The WAP Forum work in this area includes:
In the area of Web technologies, the focus of the WAP Forum and the W3C overlap to a significant degree. Direct overlaps occur in the areas of intelligent proxies and protocol design; of XML applications; and in content adaptation, e.g., through the use of vector graphics and style sheets. Future cooperation may also occur in the area of electronic payment, where the work of the two groups has potential overlap.
Instead of developing diverging solutions, it is the intent of both groups to find common solutions that will address mobile requirements. In the area of web technology, our goals overlap, especially in the long run, allowing significant cooperation and shared development. To avoid fragmentation of the Web standards, the groups should cooperate, and focus on achieving the seamless integration of mobile devices into the Web.
Bruce Martin, WAP/Unwired Planet, September 23
Johan Hjelm, W3C/Ericsson, September 28