Original post: https://blog.wonderleap.co/decentralization-of-wonderleap/

The Internet is this magical piece of technology that connects, educates, entertains, and enables people to do things that weren’t possible without it. It levels the playing field so that anyone who has a talent or a skill can share their gift with the world, and get paid for it. Getting paid by strangers on the Internet is a wonderful thing.

Whether or not the tech was too early, we fell in love with augmented and virtual reality. It was as if we had seen the future. We felt motivated to make it come faster, earlier! And we didn’t see anyone else enabling the monetization of free VR games for its creators.

In our haste, we started Wonderleap to help VR developers make money with their free games. We believed that if we could enable VR developers to build a sustainable business with our platform, they could work on VR projects without having to worry about needing to make ends meet with another job. Their time could be used to produce more content that would attract more users, which would grow the size of the pie for more people, which would grow the ecosystem as a whole.

In our eyes, it was possible to build a positive feedback loop, and boy did we vastly underestimate the amount of work that this would entail. The early traction that we got was misleading in that it was only just the tip of the iceberg. But the short stints of exuberance when we met another developer who would use our service kept us going.

When it came to thinking about how we wanted to help developers monetize their content, we considered advertisements, donations/tipping, and in-app purchases - along with a few others.

Advertisements felt like they were the most tried-and-true method of monetizing content on the Web, but because of the previous ways in which they have been abused to rip off publishers, spread fake news, and encroach upon user privacy, we had many hesitations. Donations were definitely another viable option, but it’s notoriously difficult to pay for things in the VR browser and so that also wrote off donations and in-app purchases off the list. We may consider it again in the future, but until payments on the web in VR headsets became easier to do, we figured it would be tough.

We thought that with a clean slate, especially with a new medium such as VR, we could do advertisements the right way. Respect the privacy of users, don’t use the data for targeting, all that. In order to accomplish this, we would need to create direct relationships with all publishers and advertisers on the platform, so that the technology could stay unified and we would not be obliged to provide data to other parties that would help us find more advertisers or get access to more publishers.

And we got pretty far with this method. We grew from roughly 6K sessions a month to 50K in the past 8 months, which is a sign of the ecosystem becoming larger and more mature, though for an ad network with these absolute numbers, it’s pretty difficult to convince a large pool of advertisers to spend money on your platform. The market is currently small, at least in the WebXR space.

In learning more about the advertising industry however, we learned about so many other problems that plague the industry, including ad fraud, unfair revenue sharing, data leaks, the space of problems that could be solved was only growing. These are very interesting problems to be solving, and our solutions may become very valuable in the future.

Where We’re Headed Today

We think that the next 2 years will be a very interesting time for VR and spatial computing in general. In the short term, yes, companies will be pivoting into alternative business models that are more enterprise-focused to keep the lights on, but the consumer VR space still has a way to go until it reaches its full potential. And we believe that for the continued growth of the Wonderleap network, we believe that we should consider open-sourcing our work to invite the participation of the community.

We say this because of three main reasons:

1. It is an accurate representation of the ethos of Wonderleap, which has been to make things as transparent as possible for all parties involved - our publishers, advertisers, and the users who click and view the advertisements that drive revenue for our publishers.

2. We currently do not have a large enough team to be able to handle the workload required to make Wonderleap successful privately, without spending a lot of time looking for funding. Open-sourcing our work could help us bring on help from other developers in the WebXR (and native VR) communities.

3. The community would be incentivized in helping us build the future of Wonderleap, as most of the potential contributors to the Wonderleap repo would either be advertisers or publishers. The only part of the system that is not fully transparent yet is the advertisers we are working with. This is data that can be revealed in a way that does not threaten the business, and we can brainstorm ways of doing this.

We hope that this vision for our future is exciting for you as much as it is for us, and we hope that you will support us along the way.