Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) hosting is a special type of web host service allowing people to access Internet destinations using a mobile device, such as a cell phone. Sites that are hosted on a WAP server can be easily interpreted and viewed from handheld devices, which typically have small screens and limited input functions. The wireless application protocol was developed in 1997, and was intended to consolidate and standardize several existing wireless data systems.
In 2002, WAP was updated to resemble a simplified version of the Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) web programming system. The use of WAP grew significantly in the 2000s, as cell phones and other devices for mobile Internet gained popularity. Just as different computer browsers interpret websites in a universal way, all WAP-enabled mobile phones display the Internet in the same way. The Wireless Application Protocol provides a standardized experience for mobile users, and allows developers to create sites that will function on a wide variety of devices.
All websites, whether they are viewed on a standard computer or small mobile device, must be hosted somewhere. WAP hosting provides server storage space for sites that are specifically designed for mobile users. When a WAP device makes a connection to the WAP hosting, it notifies the server that it would like the mobile version of a site. Instead of sending the normal site files, the wireless application protocol server will automatically provide a simplified form of the requested page.
WAP hosting has many advantages. Since only a simplified version of a web site is sent by the server, the amount of transferred data is kept low. This minimizes both the time and expense of mobile browsing. In addition, WAP hosting allows site designers to focus specifically on creating user-friendly mobile experiences. The sites that are held on this type of hosting can be designed with simplicity and clarity in mind, in order to minimize the visual confusion caused by small screens.
The use of WAP hosting does have some disadvantages, however. In order to be effective for mobile users, a WAP site must usually be completely re-designed. This can be time consuming and expensive, since both standard and mobile pages must be built. Many web host providers also charge additional fees for this type of hosting, beyond the service price for normal websites. The WAP protocol itself can be somewhat limiting, and may not support desired site features such as interactive multimedia or large graphics.