UPDATE, JANUARY 12, 9:05 a.m. CT: Apple has removed all apps that are replicas of Wordle, including the one created by Zach Shakked. After briefly locking his Twitter upon receiving backlash, Shakked unlocked his account, writing a thread that reads:
I realize I crossed a line. And I surely, surely will never do anything remotely close to this again. I fucked up. Getting mad that I charged a $30 subscription that 1000s of people were willing to pay is just bananas. This is how businesses work. You charge money. If it’s too much, people won’t pay. In this case, many people were willing to start a trial. I put subscriptions in every app I do. That’s how you make money on the App Store. It was optional, it wasn’t $9.99/week, and nearly 50k+ people happily didn’t pay. I haven’t implemented a non-subscription in app purchase in literally 5 years.
If I launched with multiplayer where you could real time play against other people and friends, would you all be as mad? This was a weekend side project I built that unexpectedly blew up.Yes I was really fucking excited when I saw how many downloads it was getting. And how much money it COULD make (I MADE $0 OFF IT AND ACTUALLY LOST MONEY). So nobody got fucked here other than me.
Anyone who’s been following me knows that I tweet metrics out publicly. I’ve had a dashboard of my app metrics for over a year and have been happily sharing tips I’ve used to grow my other apps. Out of context I look like I’m gloating but I promise you, I was excited. When you’ve been making apps since high school like me and you launch something that overnight is hitting like this was, you get excited. Apps have been my life for a long time. I went private because I was getting harassed from every which direction. Emails. DMs. People trying to reset my Twitter account. Today I saw who my friends were.
Another thing I’d ask you is how do you feel about Apple unilaterally removing apps without any recourse? I spoke to lawyers and the original creator’s claim to “Wordle” was highly dubious. That plus the fact that the game is already a recycled version of another game made me think there was an opportunity. I was wrong. There wasn’t. I’ll go back to creating apps based on my completely, evergreen, original ideas and never fuck with anything remotely like this again.
Unless you haven’t been on the internet for the past two weeks, chances are you’ve heard of Wordle—or at least noticed its characteristic yellow and green square emojis all over social media. The game was created by Josh Wardle (its name is a play on his surname), a software engineer who created Wordle for his word game-loving partner. He has no desire to make money from the game, and never intended for it to become a viral sensation.
Wordle thrives in its simplicity: All users are attempting to guess the same five-letter word in six tries, and the game only refreshes once a day. It’s supposed to be a communal experience where everyone’s on an even playing field. But when something as wholesome as a word game goes viral, there’s always someone around to exploit it for ill-gotten gains—regardless of their role (or lack thereof) in its creation.
That’s where the other Wordle comes in. An iOS app of the game popped up on the App Store recently, credited to Shakd, LLC. Wordle - The App has nothing to do with Wardle (the man) nor Wordle (the original game). It was made by Zach Shakked, who describes himself on his website as an “entrepreneur based in NYC.”
Shakked proudly touted the success of the app on his Twitter account, writing, “This is absurd. 450 trials at 1am last night, now at 950 and getting a new ones every minute. 12K downloads, rank #28 word game, and #4 result for ‘wordle’ in the App Store. We’re going to the fucking moon.” But since the origins of Wordle have been detailed in multiple articles (including a New York Times profile), fans of the word game were quick to call out Shakked.
Though Shakked’s app is available to download for free, there’s an option to upgrade to a pro account, that allows players to “play unlimited games every day, access harder difficulty modes, cancel anytime in App Settings,” and includes “excellent customer support.” Its cost is $29.99 per year.
But Shakked’s copycat app isn’t the only unofficial Wordle app popping up on the App Store. There are various others, all nearly identical to the original online version. Their source just isn’t known publicly.
So, instead of downloading stolen work, why not enjoy the real thing? It’s free, you can play on any device, and it’s made out of love, not by a greedy techie.