If you’ve been on Twitter lately, you’ve probably noticed your timeline. drown in gray, green and yellow squares. These messages are thanks to Wordle, a free word game that gives you six or fewer tries to guess the correct word for the day.
The game is absolutely everywhere, going from a handful of users to hundreds of thousands in a matter of weeks, despite being both free and originally built by software engineer in Brooklyn, Josh Wardle, for his partner.
Wordle stands out in a world of in-app purchases and loot boxes because it’s free, has no ads, and most importantly, is played on a simple website, rather than requiring you to download an app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
The choice to make Wordle a web app, rather than something downloaded from a store makes sense, given that it was developed as a passion project rather than a business, and it’s a simple, fun game that is not really designed to make money.
A side effect of this choice, however, is that Wordle is suddenly being scammed in app stores by other developers who feel a quick way to make money with unsuspecting users who don’t care or don’t know. not better.
Part of the charm of Wordle is that the colorful square messages you see everywhere don’t really look like an advertisement; there is no link to the game or a cheesy copy trying to convince you to install it: only you can find it via a quick google search.
As a result, the average owner of an iPhone or Android will likely assume that Wordle is an app and head straight to their respective app store to find it – which I did exactly when I found out about it. for the first time, to find a dead end when I started playing a month ago before realizing I should just google it.
Now, however, opportunistic developers have sensed this and are create almost exact clones of Wordle in order to generate money where Wardle avoided doing it. A developer, Zach shaken, cloned the game in its entirety down to the exact gameplay and user interface, named it Wordle and uploaded it to the Apple App Store, charge $ 30 per year to play a game that was supposed to be free.
Shaken touted on Twitter on the number of users he converted to paying customers and ran “Wordle” search term ads on the App Store. After widespread backlash, however, Shakked pulled the game from sale, and late Tuesday. issued a long apology and partial justification for his actions via Twitter.
In the past, we have seen cloning behavior like this occur on app stores with viral games like Three and Flappy Bird, both of which were cloned by the developers and reconfigured slightly with additional fees or additional advertising in the hope of cheating a few users and making some quick money.
Wordle faces a threat we haven’t yet seen manifest itself: the game developer is essentially being punished by app stores for choosing to build using open web technologies, rather than a native app. Not only is this type of behavior allowed by the Apple App Store, but there is little recourse, because as far as Apple is concerned, Wordle does not exist, since it was not built a native application.
There is no way for a developer of a fully functional and capable web application like Wordle to claim their name in the App Store, nor to list their website to bring users to the right place and defend against impersonators. . Google actually allows developers to download certain types of progressive web apps from the Play Store, although at the time of writing, Wardle does not appear to have chosen to do so. If he wanted to defend his game on the Play Store when a clone appears there, he would at least have the choice to do so.
This could be argued that Wardle did not make Wordle a trademark – let alone invent the actual gameplay given that it is based on a 70s game show– but that’s not the problem: because Wordle is web-based, it will continually open to clones until Wardle develops an official app.
Apple has a long history of ignoring or intentionally degrading open web technologies that could rival its incredibly successful and lucrative closed app store. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), a set of standards that allow websites to function the same as native apps, are only half supported, broken, or ignored on iOS and iPadOS.
Web push, a standard that allows websites to send push notifications to users, has been ignored by Apple for years without an explanation despite supporting almost all competing browsers, including the desktop version of Safari. When Apple doesn’t ignore standards that would allow web applications to compete on a level playing field, it can intentionally delay them for years, a practice documented in this long and exhausting list by Alex Russell, engineer at Google.
The inability to claim a name and link to a website, rather than building a native app, is by design for this reason: Apple doesn’t want users to access the web. Instead, the company intentionally harms the open web for its own benefit at the expense of users of its own App Store who might be tricked into paying for something that might be free, if only they had searched the web on the go. square.