The Rise of Wordle

William Stanziano and Priya Kommu

Wordle has recently taken the world by storm, becoming a popular pastime for many people. Wordle is a game in which the player has six chances to guess the mystery word of the day. Everytime the player guesses a word the letters turn colors depending on how accurate they are. Letters that are in the word but not in the right place turn yellow, letters that are in the correct place turn green, and letters that are not in the word turn gray. Everyday, the game resets and the mystery word is something new.

Wordle was originally created by Joseph Wardle and his partner Palek Shah in 2013 as a prototype they could play together, but they shelved the project until January 2021, when they revised it. In the new version of the game, Shah was able to pare the English language’s roughly 12,000 five-letter words into a list of 2,500 common-place words. This list serves as the list of possible words for the game. 

At the beginning, Wordle was only played by Wardle and his family. However, in October of 2021, he made the game available on his website. The game’s players skyrocketed from a mere 90 in November to a whopping 2,000,000 in the matter of two months. 

After its surge in popularity, Wardle sold the game to the New York Times for an undisclosed sum “in the low seven figures”.

With the popularity of Wordle also came the rise of many Wordle spinoffs. Globle and Worldle are games testing the player’s geography skills, while Nerdle tests the player’s ability to guess a mystery mathematical equation. Other spinoffs include Hogwartle, for Harry Potter fans, and Factle for fans of funny facts. The myriad of Wordle-type games ensures that there is something out there for everyone. 

Wordle also records the player’s daily stats and streaks which allows the player to see the growth in their skills. Additionally, the sharing function allows the player to share their stats with other players without revealing the word of the day.

Though Wordle may seem to be just a fun game for people to enjoy, there has been some controversy. The Wordle Archive was created by Devang Thakkar and lets people play old wordles. For a while people enjoyed practicing their Wordle skills, but the New York Times has recently pressured the archive into shutting down. When asked for explanation, the Times simply stated that the archive’s “ usage was unauthorized, and we were in touch with them.” Now when the Wordle Archive is visited, a message simply states: “Sadly, the New York Times has requested that the Wordle Archive be taken down.” However, the Web Archive has frozen the Wordle Archive in time on day 257, or March 3rd, 2022. This means that while Wordles after Mar 3, 2022can never be played again, the Archive as it was is still available. 

Wordle has become the world’s new habit, though it remains to be seen if the habit will stick.