Daily word-guessing game Wordle has taken the internet by storm. Despite its huge newfound success, creator Josh Wardle said he wants to keep the hit web browser game demonetized and ad-free. But one app developer had other plans, and he’s now quickly become Twitter’s main character of the day.
“I love Wordle so much I decided to make my own Wordle app but with a twist!” tech entrepreneur Zack Shakked wrote on Twitter yesterday. “There’s not just 5-letter words, but also 4, 6, and 7 letter words too! You can also play unlimited times if you’re on the Pro version.”
The new version of Wordle on the App Store didn’t just have bigger puzzles, it also required you to pay a subscription to unlock all of its features. It was a greedy innovation that, in the words of Andy Baio, compounded the plagiarism into a “naked cash grab.” The downloads, reviews, and active paid trials instantly started rolling in.
“12K downloads, rank #28 word game, and #4 result for “wordle” in the App Store,” Shakked tweeted earlier today. “We’re going to the fucking moon.”
While the original Wordle was created as a love letter of sorts for Wardle’s partner, “Wordle - The App” appears to be born of Shakked’s stated 2022 resolutions to “be more vulgar” and “make tons of fucking money.” Not even a Disney villain would be so on the nose.
As if asking for the internet to virtually punch him in the face, Shakked’s victory lap began to quickly make waves outside of his narrow pool of 1,500 followers. The comments, quote-tweets, and dunks started pouring in as well, especially from other game developers.
Cabel Sasser of indie studio Panic, the publisher behind Untitled Goose Game currently working on the Playdate handheld, responded to Shakked that he couldn’t wait to show Wordle’s true creator how to navigate the App Store takedown process. Others were more explicit. “Absolutely fuck you,” wrote Vlambeer cofounder Rami Ismail.
In a past life, Shakked would probably have agreed. It didn’t take long for people to surface an old tweet of his complaining about other internet strangers ripping off his own apps. Et tu brute?
Shakked’s Twitter account is now private. Neither he nor Wardle immediately responded to a request for comment. Here is the real Wordle.
Update: 1/12/21, 9:12 a.m. ET: Apple has since removed “Wordle - The App,” as well as a number of other copycats, from its App Store, The Verge reports. It’s unclear if the owner of one of the biggest digital stores in the world did so because of the backlash, or for some other reason. As The Verge notes, other copycats of Wordle using different names are still up on the App Store.
Shakked also unlocked his Twitter account after receiving heaps of vitriolic DMs to expand on his thinking behind the whole fiasco and apologize, sort of.
“I realize I crossed a line,” he wrote. “And I surely, surely will never do anything remotely close to this again. I fucked up.”
He went on to defend the concept behind “Wordle - The App” by pointing out how much of the rest of the App Store is premised on ripping each other off. Shakked also claimed he lost money on the whole project.
Correction: 1/12/22, 9:21 a.m. ET: A previous version of this article misspelled Andy Baio’s name.