What Is WAP?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Wireless application protocol (WAP) is a special type of information retrieval and Internet browsing method that is used exclusively in mobile devices, such as phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). When a WAP-enabled device accesses a website, its request passes through several processes and retrieves a scaled-down version of the website, which makes loading times better. Without this, retrieving information would be both difficult and slow. The simplification means that the website will not include some or many of the functions that it would have if a desktop computer was used to visit the same website, but it does allow the mobile device to search the website with relatively high speed.

Most modern mobile devices have come types of Internet access program. When a computer user visits a website, the computer just directly accesses the server and pulls up the website’s information, but a WAP device has to go through several different processes. These processes limit the website’s functionality and make the site smaller, but they allow the website to load quickly on a mobile device. Collectively, the processes are called the WAP protocol stack, and they involve five distinct processes.


Wireless application environment contains the protocol coding and searches for this in the website. In wireless session protocol, the mobile device determines whether the website requires the phone and website to talk to one another, or whether there can be a streamed connection without talking. Next, in wireless transaction protocol, the mobile device works to smooth out the data transfer. Security is needed, so because some websites are virus-heavy, wireless transport layer security offers similar security measures afforded to full-scale browsers. Wireless datagram protocol adapts the WAP website to the network carrier.

Most websites will go through the WAP protocol stack, so the website will become simplified. This means that, aside from navigation, only simple graphics and text will remain. Large graphics and scripts that make special effects are typically eliminated from the website so that they don't clog the mobile device’s data stream. Functionality might be a problem for some websites, but these limitations usually are beneficial for the mobile device.

Mobile devices have a much slower processing rate than full-size computers, which is why the wireless application protocol is so important. Loading a website on a phone that is not WAP-enabled can take five to 10 times longer, depending on signal strength and website size. Aside from loading websites, other functions that require Internet usage, such as checking email, are also optimized using a WAP-enabled device.


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