Handheld Device Markup Language

What Does Handheld Device Markup Language Mean?

Handheld Device Markup Language (HDML) is used to write text content and applications for handheld devices such as mobile phones, pagers and wireless PDAs. It is similar to HTML but is tailored for devices with the following characteristics:

  • Small display size
  • Limited input capabilities
  • Limited bandwidth
  • Limited resources (such as memory, processing power and permanent storage)

HDML, the first device-specific markup language for mobile phones was created by Openwave, formerly known as Unwired Planet. HDML is dependent on Openwave and provides server-side assistance for HDML browsers. It also closes the gap between media-rich Web content and devices with limited access.

Techopedia Explains Handheld Device Markup Language

During the 1990s, mobile phones were limited to three monochromatic lines of display and only supported HDML document rendering. However, syntax in these HDML browsers was rigorous and restricted HDML documents to tiny file sizes. For example, during development, mobile developers often crashed HDML browsers containing invalid HDML syntax.

In 1997, Openwave submitted HDML to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Unfortunately, HDML was never standardized or widely adopted. However, it shaped the syntax and usability of Wireless Markup Language (the predecessor of XHTML), which was recommended by W3C in 2011.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…