I bought a cell phone from 2011 to browse the web

For this Fall’s Intro to Coding for Designers, I thought it would be fun to do a demo with an old cell phone with wifi. I bought the Samsung 390G, a phone with a full querty keyboard, bluetooth, and wifi. Neat!

However, upon trying to load the internet, I remembered something that I had totally forgotten since the advent of the iPhone… I’m talking about… WAP BROWSERS

Back in the 2000s, the most high-end mobile phones had a very expensive app that I always tried not to click on, but was always tempted by. It was the WAP or WAP 2.0 Wireless Access Protocol. It charged per minute or per kB—either way, super expensive. And you weren’t even browsing real websites! But what I didn’t realize until this week was that they weren’t even HTML. It’s WML!

WML Structure

Wireless Markup Language (WML) is actually really similar to HTML, at least the type that we used in the 2000’s, where you had to declare the doctype at the top of your file.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE wml PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD WML 1.2//EN"
"http://www.wapforum.org/DTD/wml12.dtd">

<wml>

<card id="one" title="First Card">
<p>
This is the first card in the deck
</p>
</card>

<card id="two" title="Second Card">
<p>
Ths is the second card in the deck
</p>
</card>

</wml>

Source: TutorialsPoint

Other notable differences from HTML:

  • The file type is .wml
  • Declare <wml> instead of <html>
  • <card> instead of… <div> ?

<card> creates a “deck” of cards that takes up your entire mobile device screen

Who uses it?

Of all the sites I tested, only Google Search was still working on my WAP device. Seems like they left the infrastructure for WAP running all these years! How nice of them??

Seems like everybody else stopped caring as soon as mobile browsers were able to load full websites. And I, the consumer, didn’t even realize that the older phones would totally stop working once websites stopped supporting the WML language.

Should I use it??

I can’t be the only one trying to browse the net with an older phone, right? If this was the only device that I had, I would end up using Google’s search previews to browse the web. I wouldn’t be able to click on any results, but you can get a pretty good idea from the meta description.

Wouldn’t it be cool to make my personal website compatible with WML browsers? It looks pretty easy to do by editing an Apache server’s httpd.conf file. I wonder if index.wml will load automatically or if I have to make a mobile.website.com subdomain like everyone did in the 00’s ???

Here are all the notes in this garden, along with their links, visualized as a graph.