Apple removes Wordle clones from App Store

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter

Published
Image source, Wordle
Image caption,
The word game explains the rules at the start

Multiple copycat versions of the hugely popular word game Wordle have been removed from the App Store, Apple has confirmed to BBC News.

BBC News found several similar-looking games still available, however. A different game with the same name has been on the store for five years.

On Google Play, the equivalent for Android phones, there were two games called Wordle but neither was similar.

The name is not believed to be trademarked or the design copyrighted.

Wordle challenges players to find a five-letter word in six guesses, with a new puzzle published every day.

It is available through a free website - but has no smartphone app.

Players begin by guessing any five-letter word.

  • If any of the letters are in that day's word but in the wrong place, they turn gold
  • If they are in the word in the right place, they turn green
  • If they are not in the word, they turn grey

Players can post how quickly they solved the colourful grid on social media - but in a way that does not spoil the answer for those still playing.

And this feature has helped propel the game from 90 users in November to more than two million, according to some estimates.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The game has become extremely popular in just a few months

Software engineer Josh Wardle originally created the game as a fun activity for him and his partner and then shared it on WhatsApp with his family.

He then shared it with his family on WhatsApp before opening it up to the public.

'Quite deliberate'

Mr Wardle told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he wanted the game to be antithesis of advert-laden, attention-grabbing mobile apps.

"I am a bit suspicious of mobile apps that demand your attention and send you push notifications to get more of your attention," Mr Wardle said.

"I like the idea of doing the opposite of that - what about a game that deliberately doesn't want much of your attention?

"Wordle is very simple and you can play it in three minutes - and that is all you get.

"There are also no ads and I am not doing anything with your data - and that is also quite deliberate."

But many of the copycat versions are seeking to charge users to play.

Appealing against

Zach Shakked tweeted about the overnight success of his, Wordle - the App, saying it had had "12,000 downloads" and hundreds of trial subscriptions.

It was later removed by Apple.

App Store policies prevent the "copying of another developer's work" - but as the web-based Wordle is not available as an app, it is unclear if it would be covered under this clause.

Mr Shakked initially said he had "crossed a line" and would not do the same thing again but later revealed he was appealing against Apple's decision, offering to change the design, the way the game worked and even the name.

Earlier games

"I can simply buy the Apple Search Ads slot for 'wordle' keyword and get cheap downloads - and eventually the app, even with a different name, would rank for Wordle, since there is no app," he said.

Mr Shakked defended his actions, saying Wordle was itself derivative and the title not trademarked.

And he revealed he had offered Mr Wardle "a huge licensing fee" to jointly develop an official app version of the game but he "wasn't interested in that".

Wordle itself is similar to earlier games, including TV gameshow Lingo and Mastermind, a code-breaking board game invented in 1970 by telecommunications expert Mordecai Meirowitz.

Jotto, a word game released in the 1950s, also had similar gameplay, users tweeted.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Wordle faced further controversy this week - when the spelling of one of the answers divided players in the US and UK.

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