Wordle: how a word game conquered the Internet

Alisa Barladyan
03 Feb 2022
10:27

You could see people killing time by playing strange Scrabble in the metro or a bus. Or you could come across some Twitter posts with mysterious gray and green schemes. These tricolor cells are the screenshots of the Wordle game, an iconic puzzle that conquered the world. The game has caused a furor. This article will tell you about the history of its creation and why it became so viral. We'll also share a couple of secrets for a successful passage.

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Wordle

History of love

The Wordle concept emerged in 2020 when the pandemic began. It was the idea of the Brooklyn programmer Josh Wardle. By changing his last name, the developer came up with the project's name. The idea is devoted to Josh's girlfriend. He knew that she was into word games and created lockdown entertainment for her. Josh shared the Wordle demo with his relatives via WhatsApp. They were attracted by the game and supported the idea. Then the developer realized the concept's potential and started to promote the game. That's how the story of the globally popular project began in the family kitchen.

It took time to get the game ready for release. And Wardle's muse played a vital role in the project development. She inspired him for the game and became the first tester. But then she got a more important task: to sort all the possible five-letter words. Too rare words may have scared off a potential user. Then Wardle chose 12,000 five-letter words. And Miss Palak Shah, the developer's girlfriend, chose the most frequent of them. As a result, the game library has declined to 2,500 words. According to the developer's idea, such a reserve should be enough for a couple of years. Later we will explain why.

The game's official release was in October 2021. A week later, about a hundred people joined the game. And in another month, the number of gamers exceeded three hundred thousand. Wardle didn't expect such a success.

The Wordle creator with his muse
The Wordle creator with his muse
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What is Wordle

Wordle is a free guessing and erudition game. A random word from the huge word library is chosen. Players from all over the world need to guess it. There are six attempts; color cues are used as hints. Depending on whether the player guessed the letter or missed it, the cell lights up with a specific color.
The game is a field of six lines, divided into five cells. It starts with guessing. A user writes a random five-letter word. There are no hints on the first step, only intuition.

After that, the first row cells light up with different colors. The color — green, gray, or yellow — depends on whether the player's guess matched the keyword. If the letter is guessed and in the right place, the cell lights up green. If the letter is correct but needs to be rearranged, the cell color is yellow. Gray means miss: there is no such letter in the word.

Wordle became viral due to its minimalist and free design. The game is good for a mental warm-up. The game match doesn't require much time and resources. Moreover, the app is not overloaded with so-called information noise. Unlike TikTok, which is also viral, Wordle doesn't lure the user for hours.

The puzzle concept is not super-original or innovative. But that's the point: the developer again proved that true genius lies in simplicity.

Wordle
Wordle
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Who created Wordle

Josh Wardle, the game creator, is a thirty-six-year-old British programmer. He lives in New York with his girlfriend and leads a quiet life. First, Wardle worked for Reddit. Another, no less popular Josh's project is connected to this service.

Wordle is not his first viral project. Everyone loved The Button, the extraordinary idea for Reddit. The special button that ... doesn't do anything. But it disappears if one doesn't click it in 60 seconds. The users liked the idea. The button lasted two months.

Wordle has one more successful project. This is The Place, a net art space where every user can leave a pixel. As a result, users from all over the world drew on the interactive board. So, Wardle can be called a fan of net social experiments. But Wordle is a unique project for a programmer. It is made independently, without team support, only on enthusiasm and the power of love.

At the time of writing, The New York Times purchased the game. But Wardle assures that the app will remain free. The developer doesn't want to make money on the project. For him, Wordle is just unobtrusive entertainment without a catch. The game doesn't need PR, monetization, and advertising.

Josh Wardle, the game creator
Josh Wardle, the game creator
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How to play Wordle

The player has six attempts, which he uses to guess a word from the Wordle library. And this is the main lure: the game has one round per day. After six attempts, you should only wait for the next evening and the next task. The developer praises this feature as Wordle's strongest point. The game doesn't require active engagement and lots of time. Or, as the developer says, "intense relationships." There are also no ads, flashing banners, and paid services in the game. Just a black background and a blackboard with colorful cells. This is the point: entertainment for the sake of entertainment, without cheating or taking money.

If we summarize the reasons for Wordle's success, we can highlight the following features. It's a sense of scarcity and total unobtrusiveness—one attempt per day fuels the enthusiasm. And lack of ads, notifications, and paid services saves your nerves.

And another nice little thing is respect for the users. They can share their successes on social media without spoilers. To do it, Wardle has set an automatic save of the results as a color grid. Letters from the panel disappear, leaving only a tricolor rectangle. You can see how the user's thoughts moved by the alternation of colors. It is crucial, as the users get the same world. Every day, a random word from the Wordle library is chosen. And the whole world scratches their head over the decoding.

These are all the reasons for Wordle's success. Yet another confirmation that all brilliant things are simple.

Wordle
Wordle

Alternatives and secrets

Iconic releases generate emulations, adaptation, and analogs. If you are not good at English but want to join Wordle, cheer up. Russian developer Alexander Belousov has issued a game localizer.
There are also alternatives for impatient users. These are the same games but without the one-word limit, for instance, Hello Wordl and Wheedle. In the first game, one can even regulate the size of the words. The maximum number of letters is eleven. And Wheedle is an exact analog of the original game with an unlimited number of rounds.

There are a lot of game variants. Seven Wordles invites users to compete against the clock. And Sweardle is devoted to English slang and obscene words. The game was even adapted for Pokemon fans. Squirdle used pokemon's parameters. You start the round by entering the pokemon name, then the guessing begins.

But the original is still the most popular version of the game. Gamers are already making puzzle-solving guides in Python. And the most courageous users have written down the words that ensure a successful beginning of a match. We will share it with you. Write them down: tears, alone, anime, worse, atone, react… And then do it yourself, especially since you can try your hand at Wordle for free.

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