Wordle Is a Love Story

Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, knew his partner loved word games, so he created a guessing game for just the two of them. As a play on his last name, he named it Wordle. But after the couple played for months, and after it rapidly became an obsession in his family's WhatsApp group once he introduced it to relatives, Mr. Wardle thought he might be on to something and released it to the rest of the world in October. From a report: On Nov. 1, 90 people played. On Sunday, just over two months later, more than 300,000 people played. It's been a meteoric rise for the once-a-day game, which invites players to guess a five-letter word in a similar manner as the guess-the-color game Mastermind. After guessing a five-letter word, the game tells you whether any of your letters are in the secret word and whether they are in the correct place. You have six tries to get it right. Few such popular corners of the internet are as low-frills as the website, which Mr. Wardle built himself as a side project. There are no ads or flashing banners; no windows pop up or ask for money. There is merely the game on a black background. "I think people kind of appreciate that there's this thing online that's just fun," Mr. Wardle said in an interview on Monday. "It's not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It's just a game that's fun." This is not Mr. Wardle's first brush with suddenly capturing widespread attention. Formerly a software engineer for Reddit, he created two collaborative social experiments on the site, called The Button and Place, that each were phenomena in their moment. But Wordle was built without a team of engineers. It was just him and his partner, Palak Shah, killing time during a pandemic. Mr. Wardle said he first created a similar prototype in 2013, but his friends were unimpressed and he scrapped the idea. In 2020, he and Ms. Shah "got really into" the New York Times Spelling Bee and the daily crossword, "so I wanted to come up with a game that she would enjoy," he said. The breakthrough, he said, was limiting players to one game per day. That enforced a sense of scarcity, which he said was partially inspired by the Spelling Bee, which leaves people wanting more, he said.

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