RE: Unicodeless WAP?

From: Christophe PIERRET (
Date: Tue Jan 18 2000 - 09:41:29 EST

About WAP and Unicode support
WAP will use a presentation language called WML based on XML.
WAP also defines a binary encoding scheme of XML (to reduce size) called

Since support for Unicode is mandatory for XML documents, WML will support
When no character set is specified in WBXML, the default character set is
From my understanding WAP supports Unicode as its primary character set
(with a preference for the UTF-8 encoding scheme).
That is great news for our Unicode community.

BUT ...

The major purpose of WAP (very roughly) is to define the equivalent of
HTTP/HTML for small devices with limited memory and CPU.

The major point here is : will WAP-enabled devices (and WAP User agents)
support display of arbitrary Unicode text?

I guess that the majority will not , since it involves a lot of requirements
on those tiny devices with limited memory and processing power...

There is a spec called "User Agent Profile Specification" that defines a
format (XML/RDF based) that expresses device/user agent capabilities and
limitations. A user agent (a WML browser) can tell which character set it
supports for input (InputCharset property) as well as for display
(OutputCharset property).
Maybe (surely!) some devices targeted at Western European or US market will
only support ISO-8859-1.
While some other devices targeted at Japan will support Shift-JIS.

Even if a user agent tells it supports UTF-8, it may not correctly display
each and every character.

The right people to ask are maybe at Nokia,Ericsson and Motorola.

About WAP and ISO:
WAP is not an ISO standart, it is driven by a consortium, much like Unicode
in fact.
But in fact it seems to reference some ISO standarts (including 10646) and
some W3C recommandations (compiling the list is just too much for me)

About the future belonging to WAP:
It is still questionable (some Palm executives seems to disagree) but
everybody else seems to agree on this.

I Hope I answered your Wap questions,
Christophe Pierret


The WML and WBXML specs can be found at

See WBXML , 5.6 Charset

See WAE Overview, WML (topic on internationalisation)
Quote: "Any character encoding ("charset") that contains a proper subset of
the logical characters in Unicode may be used (e.g., US-ASCII, ISO-8859-1,
UTF-8, Shift_JIS, etc.)"

See "User Agent Profile Specification", 7.5 User Agent Profile Schema and
Base Vocabulary
=>Look for ID="InputCharSet" and ID="OutputCharSet"

> -----Original Message-----
> From: mg []
> Sent: January 18, 2000 1:57 PM
> To: Unicode List
> Subject: Re: Unicodeless WAP?
> Point (1) is actually more about digests; please do not
> respond to that, but
> just skip to (2) for WAP.
> (1)
> (2)
> Urgent question: is it true that WAP systems are shaping up
> to ignore the
> Unicode Standard? If so, why, and what is being done about
> that? Since the
> future seems to belong to WAP, does that mean UCS is becoming
> redundant?
> Which ISO Standards form the basis of WAP? These questions
> I'd like to see
> discussed by experts on this list, unless WAP has already chosen.
> With best wishes,
> mg

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