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back to article BBC kills off WML site

The BBC has killed off the Wireless Markup Language version of its site, pointing out that no one uses WAP any more – not for looking at web pages anyway. The BBC's WML page now presents an apology and suggests that XHTML might be a better technology to use, while the formal announcement points out that fewer than one per cent …

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So my Nokia 6250 is becomming obsolete then ?

It's a shame about WML - it was rather nice to code in. Not for phones, obviously, but for a long time Sky's interactive platform was all WML based. I haven't worked on that in years, but it was a very nice thing to use at the time - far better than HTML for what it was trying to do.

Am still keeping my 6250 however, even if I have nothing to browse ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

yup

I looked at BBC News on WAP once, thought "wow, I'm never going to be desperate enough for the news to use this again" and then forgot about it. Maybe I am not alone.

Then again I'm not at all interested in surfing the web on any kind of mobile device, given the frankly embarrassing amount of time I spend online anyway.

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I agree

The BBC's mobile version of the site is chronic. There are too many sites that detect you are on a mobile and force you on to their mobile version of the site.

Quite a lot of mobile devices these days can handle the full site and don't even get the choice.

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If you're using Android

and want the full experience, there's a setting in the web browser that lets you select the User Agent. Choose "Desktop" and you'll get the full version.

Mobile sites do still have a place, though- some phones still can't handle Flash and the like, so you need the cut-down version for those users.

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@Adam

My poor little Nokia doesn't have that nice user agent option. But it does at least do flash.

Some sites do offer the full version of their site to mobile users. But one wrong click and some of them (IMDB.com and Facebook for example) will throw you back to their mobile version.

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Unhappy

Goodbye WAP...

Aww, I quite liked WML. The phone screens were too small but on a nice 240x320 pad it was great. And optimising images for mono is an art in itself. I remember hacking a browser cache into an off-line server that would manipulate encoded pages on the fly long before Google and Oracle's attempts at off-line storage.

WMLScript was pretty damn good too, integrating with the page and forms far more readily than JavaScript.

Shame the rest of that job was a daily round of stress and abuse, really...

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Jobs Horns

Browser sniffing

What is really hacking me off is the practice of browser sniffing seems to be re-emerging. So if I want to manually visit a cut-down mobile site on my laptop, I get redirected to the main JS and Ad filled site.

Fair enough redirect mobile users to a mobile site... but don't stop me from accessing a mobile site on my full browser if I want to!

I quite like the current convention of having subdomains dedicated to the mobile sites though. Eg: m.domain.com or mobile.domain.com

Definitely beats .mobi domains

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FAIL

Browser sniffing...

...yes after all, Firefox would look so good rendered for i.e.6.

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Mobile users sometimes want the full site too.

Quite a lot of smart phones can handle a full web page.

But for your problem, try using the User Agent Switcher (Firefox Plug in) which lets you pretend to be an iPhone from your PC.

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rendered for..

Well exactly. Which is the point. You should not be siffing the beowser to find out whow to render it. You should be delivering straightforward simple native html that ever browser deals with adequately. That's what got us in the whole frigging ie6 mess, and it doesn't need perpetuating...

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Boffin

browser sniffing

browser sniffing came looooong before IE6, and is why IE's user agent string contains the word 'Mozilla'

http://webaim.org/blog/user-agent-string-history/

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Eh?

"I get redirected to the main JS and Ad filled site."

Just how long have the BBC been running adverts then?

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Jobs Horns

I realise

I realise I can change the User Agent string. But my point is that I shouldn't have to!

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Unhappy

Not dead, just deprecated

Of course, even WAP has forsaken WML for some time now: version 2.0 of the WML standard is just XHTML Mobile Profile with the WML 1.x tags shoved into a separate namespace, and marked as deprecated.

Alas, such indignity to a fine platform. WML 1.x and friends (WMLScript, WBXML, etc) were the first to advance the idea of the web as an application platform, and were much more friendly to this vision than their desktop equivalents – and in some senses, still are. Their only crime was becoming attached to the first, failed generation of the mobile web, when nobody knew what to do with it, and even if we did there was hardly any infrastructure to make it work.

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Boffin

Shame

I wrote a little gateway to transcode html on-the-fly to wml when I was at university. WML was lovely, but it was a bugger as you had to make some assumptions about how big the page could be. Back then, certain phones had a 3000 byte limit on pages (or decks/cards!). You couldn't really assume what that limit would be in real-terms, as the phones never received the .wml files - they were effectively compiled/compressed into WML bytecode.

WAP/WML was a nice little toy for a while, but it never seemed any more than that and looked to be an enormous kludge to get phones (my Nokia 3330) on the t'intertubes.

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Unhappy

Could the Beeb be wary of termination seeing how Miriam O'Reilly ...

won her case when she claimed she was tossed for allegedly being too old?

Better to hang on to old things like WAP until they can prove it's too old.

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The ceefax of the mobile internet

I really liked WAP and appreciated it's thriftiness with bandwidth and processor resources, and the concept of decks within cards was very nice as the browser could easily prefetch the next page.

Thinking back. it strikes me how bloated most web pages are now, taking so much time resolve all the various DNS names, load the page, load the ad networks ads, start up flash animations etc etc and then the page is so busy with crap you have trouble finding the link you are after.

Here's to a simpler, but far faster web...

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Heart

Ceefax!

I remember that. my mother would check the weather on it before we headed out to school, and I'd look at the quizzes, hitting the reveal button to see the answers. a couple of years after that, our first pc (raugh,burning fast 286sx)

I miss ceefax. you give people bandwidth and they just fill it with crap and then subsidise their crap with video advertising.

nostalgia heart.

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Coat

and get software

BBC Micro's equipped with a Teletext adapter could actually download programs from Ceefax. IIRC the service ran until the late 80's.

...mines the one with the rolled-up jacket sleeves and hair gel stains

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Ah, Teletext.

Or Ceefax, whatever you want to call it.

I too think that most web pages are badly bloated. To the point that I've started using LYNX to do a fair bit of browsing. No pictures makes it very fast, and the flash/java etc doesn't really like the text-based setup.

I still use Teletext. Don't know how long it will remain around for, though, since here in New Zealand the analogue network is being shut down pretty soon.

It's quite handy for instances where it's not worth the hassle of starting the computer, to see the TV listings or the weather. Especially so just recently, as we moved house and don't have the phone/internet/sky/way to connect to outside world just yet.

And the closed captions for the deaf. Even my grandmother could figure out how to use them.

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Memories

Ah ... Remember Oracle? Some memories over at www.teletext.org.uk , and if you really want to go back in time to see what preceded the Internet and could have been huge, had BT not bottled it. - www.viewdata.org.uk :-)

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@Jonathan Rowe

Plenty of people will probably beat me to it, but that's what hosts files from mvps, NoScript, AdBlock Plus, and Privoxy are for... ;)

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This post has been deleted by its author

WTF?

Hooray.....but how many really care?

My forecast is that in 20years time BBC will ditch flash based iPlayer for something based on open standards.

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I'll miss Ceefax too.

I still switch from DTV back to analogue to use Ceefax because it is quicker and nicer to use than the crappy version on digital. Later TVs managed to hold all the pages in memory, which was an improvement. I will miss it. Oracle and 4tel were awful because of the adverts.

Yeah, I remember the Teletext downloads as well. You could download stuff from Prestel too for a wider range of micros.

My old analogue TV has a picture that goes from top to bottom, can still be viewed when there is channel interference or a weaker signal, changes channels and comes on immediately, and doesn't pixellate (particularly bad with the football). It's also already lasted five times longer than my first DTV. Despite what they tell you when they want to sell you new crap, things don't automatically get better.

Check your browser settings to beat browser sniffing. Opera can disguise itself as another browser to cope with badly written, non-standards compliant or browser-sniffing websites. You can also fix Opera so that video ads are replaced by big grey play buttons. Can't remember whether I got the details on that from El Reg or Micromart. Good job then that the upgrade to v11 carried the hack over. Thanks Opera guys.

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FAIL

pedant alert

"WML is an XML language, and was launched at a time when HTML was a bastard offspring of XML at best"

makes no sense, HTML is derrivied from SGML, as is XML ultimatly, XHtml was and is only Html with Xml rules applied i.e. all elements are closed, casing is fixed. Never mind the fact that HTML predates XML by quite a few years...

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: pedant alert

You're right - "bastard cousin" would have been better more accurate.

Bill.

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Pint

Not just older phones

The BBC WML site was also very good for the "cheap and cheerful" low graphics content, especially useful if roaming abroad or you just wanted the information quickly without fuss.

Don't get me wrong, mobile web is a fantastic thing and times do move on - but the BBC's wasn't the only decent WML site that remained damn useful. There are times when "big and fancy" is a good thing, there are times that "cheap and cheerful" - or at least the choice - is also a good thing.

I'm only glad several other equally useful "WAP" sites remain functional, useful, alive and kicking. Ok you don't get the full and fancy functionality of the "mobile web", but just like some older phone models - you get "the basics", delivered quickly and without fuss.

If the development costs have already been spent, well... mine's the one with the "luddite" cap in the corner who believes in change for the sake of improvement but not for the sake of it.

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WAP still has its uses

wap.nationalrail.co.uk is still a handy and high-speed alternative - very quick to load. When travelling through poor reception areas, my HTC-S620 seems to be able to get a response from WAP far faster than the pda version of the website. Also far quicker in prime reception areas. OK, so the WAP site provides almost nothing apart from the most basic timetable and live-running info ... but that's all I need.

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