By John Gruber
Build web apps, iOS apps, and workflows with Retool.
A few days ago I linked to a New York Times profile of Josh Wardle, creator of the delightful and explosively popular web game Wordle. Wordle, it’s worth noting, has no ads and is free of charge.
As of today, Apple’s App Store is lousy with Wordle rip-offs. I mean not just the concept — there’s a long history of “guess the word” games, including a defunct game show called “Lingo” that was clearly an inspiration for Wordle — but literally the name “Wordle” and its design. As observed by Greg Karber, as I write this, the #3, #7, #14, and #15 word games in the iOS App Store1 are shameless Wordle clones stealing the name “Wordle”. (Worth noting that #16, “Wordle!”, was last updated five years ago, is an entirely different timer-based word game, and is simply coincidentally named. There’s also “Wordle - Word Puzzle”, a three-year-old entirely different $2 game that is also coincidentally named.)
Apple, apparently, is just fine with this. [Update: As of this evening, all of the following games that used “Wordle” in their name have been removed from the App Store.]
A perusal of the rogue’s gallery of Wordle rip-offs:2
00B7“middle dot” as a suffix on the app name.)
And then we get to the real gem of the bunch. “Wordle - The App”, by Zach Shakked, a free-to-download app with a 30-fucking-dollar-per-year “Pro” unlock. Shakked’s rip-off doesn’t just steal Wordle’s name, design, and mechanics, its “The App” suffix clearly was chosen to make it look like the official App Store version of Wardle’s original.3 He even squatted on “@theWordleApp” on Twitter — not a Wordle app — the Wordle app. Shakked then spent the last day on Twitter giddy with excitement, bragging about how much money his utterly shameless rip-off was making:
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.
The developer and web community soon caught on — Cabel Sasser, Rebecca Slatkin, Steven Troughton-Smith, Jason Kottke, and Andy Baio all exposed his shameless theft (with screenshots, wisely), and I simply asked him, just to be sure, whether he had Josh Wardle’s permission. Within moments, Shakked took his Twitter account (@zachshakked) private. (He left his rip-off app in the App Store, of course, so as not to interrupt its onward trajectory to the moon.)
It gets better, believe it or not. Literally moments before he realized the entire indie developer community was dunking on him and privatized his Twitter account, this tweet Shakked originally posted back in June surfaced:
I absolutely despise copycats. Shameless copying is so dumb. Take inspiration from others. Why are they doing that? Why is this a good feature for users? How can we build on top of that?
Shameless copy/pasting ideas/features will get you nowhere.
in response to one of his other apps having its IAP screen ripped off (and it was indeed blatantly ripped-off) by a rival.
Shakked was wrong about that: shamelessly ripping off Wordle has gotten him somewhere, all right.
While spelunking the App Store’s list of top word games, I stumbled upon Microsoft Wordament. Who knew Microsoft had a highly-ranked word game for iOS (and Android)? They’ve got a Mahjong game among their iOS apps, too. ↩︎
What about Google’s Play Store? I didn’t hunt for long, but as far as I can tell, there’s just one Wordle rip-off at the moment, and it isn’t high-ranking on the word game leaderboard: “Wordle - Daily Word Challenge”, by Digital Snacks — a free-to-download game with both ads and in-app purchases. I tried it out and deleted it after it rejected “caned” and “paned” — neither obscure — as invalid words. ↩︎︎
The actual official Wordle game — on the web — works splendidly as an app on iOS with Safari’s “Add to Home Screen” command in the share sheet. The only downside: web apps on the Home screen don’t share cookies with Safari itself, so if you have saved stats you’ll start over. ↩︎︎
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