80k downloads later, we’re shutting down Walllpaper

It’s October 2015 and once again I find myself browsing Dribbble, a social network for creatives, looking for a cute illustration to use as a wallpaper for my smartphone.

The process is quite tedious: once I find the perfect illustration, I download it, open it in Photoshop, extended the background colour to fit the screen size of my iPhone and then transfer it to set it as my new wallpaper.

I thought: “Why did no one turned this into an iPhone app yet?” And so I decided to create Walllpaper, an app that turns Dribbble shots into wallpapers for any iOS device.

I immediately opened Sketch and started mocking up some basic screens for the app, then without overthinking it too much, I jumped right into code and used my Objective C skills to start hacking a first version of Walllpaper together. Kaboom, it was working!

After a weekend of passionate hustling I finished the app, but I started questioning whether there was a way to get something out of it other than the simplicity of getting new backgrounds for my phone.

Monetisation

Dribble is a portfolio based catalogue, which means that most of the illustrations were originally made for clients — this made it almost impossible to convince the artists to sell their work on our platform as they didn’t own the exclusive rights for their shots. I couldn’t even charge for the app itself, as It wouldn’t have been ethical to make money out of someone else’s work.

Once I figured out there was no way to monetise this, I tried to find a way to use this app to give something in return both to myself and the community.

Once I figured out there was no way to monetise this, I tried to find a way to use this app to give something in return both to myself and the community.

I decided to add two features: the first and most important one, gave automatically a like to the Dribbble Shot for every registered download. The second feature was adding a little“Follow us on Dribbble” checkbox upon signing up, which help us gain more followers on the platform.

Both of those features were using the new Dribbble v1 API.

Ready for launch

I’m ready to finally launch Walllpaper. We handpicked the best Dribbble artworks to create an amazing gallery of wallpapers, I created my Dribbble shot and set up a ProductHunt page. Boom we sent Walllpaper into the wild.

My day ended up as mainly hitting the refresh button on Dribbble and ProductHunt. There is nothing greater then seeing amazing feedback, likes and upvotes after working on something for several weeks.

The launch is a success:

On top of this launch we also received a loads of follows on Dribbble thanks to the follow feature we’ve added inside the app.

First trouble

Hi Maxime and Filippo,

We’ve taken a look at your app, [Wallpaper](https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/keynote/id1050415023?mt=8), and unfortunately we feel it violates our [terms and guidelines](http://developer.dribbble.com/terms/). For this reason, we can’t support your use of the API.

From our API Terms & Guidelines:

Dribbble members own all rights to their content and it is your responsibility to make sure your use of the API does not contravene those rights. You are solely responsible for making use of Dribbble images and other member data in compliance with members’ requirements and/or restrictions.

Distributing and altering Dribbble members’ work without their permission is prohibited. Your app adds additional color backgrounds on to the work, which alters the original.

We’d like to hear back if you have a solution to fixing these issues. If you were to get permission from each Dribbble member about using and altering their work, that would work. Otherwise, we’ll decline access to the API. We reserve the right to decline any request for API usage and block access to the API.

Team Dribbble
https://dribbble.com

We immediately worried that this would be the end of Walllpaper, but we decided that we weren’t gonna go down without a battle.

According to Dribbble, we were “distributing Dribbble members work without their permission” even though we weren’t storing the artwork inside our app. We decided to set up an authentication screen that made possible for the illustrators to connect their Dribbble account and therefore give us permission to use their shots in our app.

It was a quick win, however we didn’t expect how difficult it was gonna be to get everyone’s approval. We started contacting many of the illustrators through Dribbble’s messaging, but since it’s against their guidelines to contact a member for a non-work related inquiry, they blocked our accounts and made it impossible to reach out to them.

So we moved on by visiting their personal websites searching for a contact form or email, however this made everything far more difficult since many illustrators didn’t even have a website, forms weren’t working or we just never received a reply.

In the end we were able to bring about 50% of the illustrations back in our app.

Asia loves Walllpaper

I started digging through the analytics data of Walllpaper on iTunes and found out somehow the app went viral in Asia — almost 70k downloads on it’s own.

Because we only allowed non registered users to see and download 5 wallpapers, it was clear the app became popular outside the Dribble community and it prompted people to start making new Dribbble accounts just to access those wallpapers.

Dribbble retires it’s API

Again we needed to change our app and decided to turn it into a static app. However this meant illustrators wouldn’t get anything in return from people downloading their illustrations as wallpapers.

This meant illustrators wouldn’t get anything in return from people downloading their illustrations as wallpapers.

This also meant we wouldn’t receive any follows anymore for people using our app and considering there was no real way to monetise it we wondered why we would keep investing time in this app.

We lost the battle. Beginning Februrary we’re shutting down Walllpaper so I can focus my efforts on my other side project Leaderboard.

After thoughts

It’s worth to mention Instagram also went from a very open API to a read only API since Facebook acquired it. You can’t really blame any of those platforms as very open API’s on social platforms makes it very easy to abuse those platforms and big support teams are needed to monitor this behaviour.

If you liked this story, don’t forget to give an applause 👏🏻

Maxime De Greve
Designer & Developer at Marvel

Filippo
Designer at Marvel

Designer & Developer @marvelapp. Belgian. Website: maximedegreve.com