Users have been warned that supporting the Wap standard is no guarantee that their Wap service will be compatible with commercially available handsets and Wap servers.
Tests completed by software testing firm Anywhere-YouGo.com across 50 Wap sites revealed that 28% had errors that were serious enough to prevent users from viewing pages and completing transactions.
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James Pearce, UK director at AnywhereYouGo.com, says, "All the Wap-enabled phones currently shipping do not execute Wap correctly."
The problem stems from the way phones and Wap gateway servers interpret the Wap Mark-up Language (WML) which describes how a Wap site appears.
Pearce says inconsistencies arise because phones and servers treat certain WML tags differently, resulting in Wap sites that can only be viewed correctly on one particular Wap phone.
Areas of incompatibility include the way tables and data are formatted on various handsets and the ability to transmit information back to the Wap server.
For a user running a Wap site, the potential for errors is disastrous. Pierce says even if a site operates correctly in a Wap simulator, there is no guarantee that it will look the same when it is received. The danger is that a Wap site will not work on particular Wap servers or with certain handsets.
The industry acknowledges Wap is still an emerging technology. A Nokia spokesman explains, "Wap is a pioneering technology and users will encounter issues."
He adds that some handset and server manufacturers have deviated from the official Wap 1.1 standard.
The only way to guarantee that a site will look and respond correctly is to test it on all Wap devices. This may seem a feasible with just a handful of Wap-enabled servers and handsets. But, as the number of possible combinations of Wap server and handset increases, it will become increasingly difficult to test every one.
Nokia believes the Wap 1.2 specification may help overcome the problems that early adopters are facing today, as it will include a way to run downloadable scripts from a mobile phone.
However, scripting opens up a whole gamut of problems in the area of viruses, as the computer industry saw with the Love Bug last week. Through scripting, viruses and other malicious applications could easily be distributed and run on mobile phones.