How much does WURFL take?

These days I spent some time reading a post from Russell Beattie about Mobile Research and the replies that followed. I have in some way already posted about it.

Later replies also made me think about the time that I invest in WURFL. While sometimes the project might seem dead or silent, I constantly work on it and Luca Passani does the same.
Initially the project was just an idea, collect the data that the few readers and writers of wmlprogramming were already storing. At that time we were not so many and basically we all were developers experimenting this new technology trying to find our way out of the “quicksand”.
After Nokia’s ringtones (strictly monophonic) and after all the other manufacturers understood that personalization would have brought money, more companies and people started minding about “device capabilities” and of course new developers joined the wmlprogramming mailing list looking for information about devices and support. More technologies have arrived (MMS, EMS, J2ME, etc) and WURFL kept growing in size, contributors and most of all users (users that often don’t contribute back, but the few that do keep the project alive).

Luca and I started to feel that the project was growing when the number of emails about WURFL on wmlprogramming and most of all emails directed to us personally started growing a lot.
Today I was wondering about the time I spend on the project. A rough count is that I spend about 60-90 minutes per day replying to personal emails and emails on the list.
Aside from this I spend a few hours per week, I would say an average of 3-4 distributed during evening and weekends, mostly importing data in the XML. I think I reach peaks of 10-12 hours, sometimes.
I am sure developers supporting WURFL are also spending some extra time just because they think it’s a good project and they think it can help other people as it helped them. This is why I respect anyone who sends me an email and always try to reply quickly and fully.

Who is using WURFL? While many think it’s just an “underground” project, there are indeed some big companies using it. Sometimes they won’t tell us because they don’t mind, some other times they will consider it an “industrial secret”, some other times they might be scared we will ask for money. What else? I am sure there is someone in some big company that users WURFL and is pretty satisfied with the results, but won’t tell it too loud just because it’s a big company and knowing that it uses something free instead of paying a lot of money to some big company that SELLS software and consultancy would not be good.
Why am I not asking for money? There are many reasons, here’s an unsorted and incomplete list:

  • I take advantage of many other open-source software so this is my little contribution back
  • WURFL was born as a collaborative effort and should continue that way. No one invested fresh money in it, if not his own time, but this is also one of the reasons why it was successful
  • In the last 2 years I got contracts ALSO because I work actively on WURFL and companies hiring me were HAPPY that I dedicated some time to project
  • I don’t think that selling WURFL (intended as the XML) would really give me much money. I think many people (probably not understanding the difficulty) would say that anyone can collect data about a device. What could give money would be some added value. It is funny when sometimes I receive emails of people asking me to develop some software for them. Do they think that just because I work on an open-source project, working is a hobby, for me?

There are probably many other small reasons why I do this, maybe also the dream of a worldwide fame, going on TV, being interviewed and so on. But probably this is too far away, I should have done something more popular, like eMule or Napster…