Websites designed for access from these browsers are referred to as wireless portals or collectively as the Mobile Web. They may automatically create "mobile" versions of each page, for example this one.
The mobile browser usually connects via cellular network, or increasingly via Wireless LAN, using standard HTTP over TCP/IP and displays web pages written in HTML, XHTML Mobile Profile (WAP 2.0), or WML (which evolved from HDML). WML and HDML are stripped-down formats suitable for transmission across limited bandwidth, and wireless data connection called WAP. In Japan, DoCoMo defined the i-mode service based on i-mode HTML, which is an extension of Compact HTML (C-HTML), a simple subset of HTML.
WAP 2.0 specifies XHTML Mobile Profile plus WAP CSS, subsets of the W3C's standard XHTML and CSS with minor mobile extensions.
Newer mobile browsers are full-featured Web browsers capable of HTML, CSS, ECMAScript, as well as mobile technologies such as WML, i-mode HTML, or cHTML.
To accommodate small screens, they use Post-WIMP interfaces.
The first mobile browser for a PDA was PocketWeb for the Apple Newton created at TecO in 1994, followed by the first commercial product NetHopper released in August 1996.
The so-called "microbrowser" technologies such as WAP, NTTDocomo's i-mode platform and Openwave's HDML platform fueled the first wave of interest in wireless data services.
The first deployment of a mobile browser on a mobile phone was probably in 1997 when Unwired Planet (later to become Openwave) put their "UP.Browser" on AT&T handsets to give users access to HDML content.
A British company, STNC Ltd., developed a mobile browser (HitchHiker) in 1997 that was intended to present the entire device UI. The demonstration platform for this mobile browser (Webwalker) had 1 MIPS total processing power. This was a single core platform, running the GSM stack on the same processor as the application stack. In 1999 STNC was acquired by Microsoft and HitchHiker became Microsoft Mobile Explorer 2.0, not related to the primitive Microsoft Mobile Explorer 1.0. HitchHiker is believed to be the first mobile browser with a unified rendering model, handling HTML and WAP along with ECMAScript, WMLScript, POP3 and IMAP mail in a single client. Although it was not used, it was possible to combine HTML and WAP in the same pages although this would render the pages invalid for any other device. Mobile Explorer 2.0 was available on the Benefon Q, Sony CMD-Z5, CMD-J5, CMD-MZ5, CMD-J6, CMD-Z7, CMD-J7 and CMD-J70. With the addition of a messaging kernel and a driver model, this was powerful enough to be the operating system for certain embedded devices. One such device was the Amstrad [email protected] and [email protected] 2. This code formed the basis for MME3.
Multiple companies offered browsers for the Palm OS platform. The first HTML browser for Palm OS 1.0 was HandWeb by Smartcode software, released in 1997. HandWeb included its own TCP/IP stack, and Smartcode was acquired by Palm in 1999. Mobile browsers for the Palm OS platform multiplied after the release of Palm OS 2.0, which included a TCP/IP stack. A freeware (although later shareware) browser for the Palm OS was Palmscape, written in 1998 by Kazuho Oku in Japan, who went on to found Ilinx. Still in limited use as late as 2003. Qualcomm also developed the Eudora Web browser, and launched it with the Palm OS based QCP smartphone. ProxiWeb was a proxy-based Web browsing solution, developed by Ian Goldberg and others at the University of California Berkeley and later acquired by PumaTech.
Released in 2001, Mobile Explorer 3.0 added iMode compatibility (cHTML) plus numerous proprietary schemes. By imaginatively combining these proprietary schemes with WAP protocols, MME3.0 implemented OTA database synchronisation, push email, push information clients (not unlike a 'Today Screen') and PIM functionality. The cancelled Sony Ericsson CMD-Z700 was to feature heavy integration with MME3.0. Although Mobile Explorer was ahead of its time in the mobile phone space, development was stopped in 2002.
Also in 2002, Palm, Inc. offered Web Pro on Tungsten PDAs based upon a Novarra browser. PalmSource offered a competing Web browser based on Access Netfront.
Opera Software pioneered with its Small Screen Rendering (SSR) and Medium Screen Rendering (MSR) technology. The Opera web browser is able to reformat regular web pages for optimal fit on small screens and medium-sized (PDA) screens. It was also the first widely available mobile browser to support Ajax and the first mobile browser to pass ACID2 test.
Distinct from a mobile browser is a web-based emulator, which uses a "Virtual Handset" to display WAP pages on a computer screen, implemented either in Java or as an HTML transcoder.
The following are some of the more popular mobile browsers. Some mobile browsers are really miniaturized Web browsers, so some mobile device providers also provide browsers for desktop and laptop computers.
Mobile transcoders reformat and compress web content for mobile devices and must be used in conjunction with built-in or user-installed mobile browsers. The following are several leading mobile transcoding services.Openwave Web Adapter - used by Vodacom
Vision Mobile Server
Skweezer - used by Orange, Etisalat, JumpTap, Medio, Miva, and others
Loband by Aptivate