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Creator of Wordle copycat app says he 'crossed a line' following backlash

Developer Zach Shakked tried to monetize Wordle, a popular free daily game that gives users six attempts to guess a five-letter word.
Wordle is simple, but for the past few weeks the online game has been stirring up social networks in the U.S.Stefani Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images

A developer who created a copycat iOS version of Wordle admitted that he was "wrong" to try to monetize the daily word game after he generated backlash online and Apple removed the clone from its App Store.

The developer, Zach Shakked, was among a handful of people who tried to monetize Wordle, a popular daily word game that gives users six attempts to guess a five-letter word.

The game, which is available online through a free website, does not have a smartphone app. Josh Wardle, the game’s creator, told the BBC last week that he pledged to keep Wordle ad- and subscription-free.

Shakked came under fire this week after he created an iOS game called Wordle — The App, which launched Monday. It offered users five-, six- and seven-letter words with the option for unlimited play with a $30 annual subscription.

Apple said it has removed Wordle — the App and other clones of the game from its App Store. It is unclear how many apps were removed and when. 

Shakked said in a Twitter thread Wednesday that he was “wrong.”

“I realize I crossed a line,” he wrote. “And I surely, surely will never do anything remotely close to this again.”

In the Twitter thread, he explained his logic behind creating the app.

"Here were my calculations," he wrote. "a) Wordle is a ripoff of another game b) Wordle the word isn’t trademarked and there’s a bunch of other unrelated word apps named the same thing c) Wow, I’ll hack together something on the weekend and see if I can make a buck."

He said he consulted with lawyers first.

"I spoke to lawyers and the original creator’s claim to ‘Wordle’ was highly dubious," he wrote. "That plus the fact that the game is already a recycled version of another game ...

"made me think there was an opportunity," he added. "I was wrong. There wasn’t."

He also said he spoke with Wardle on the phone for 30 minutes and "tried to convince him to a) let me pay a huge licensing fee (100k+), b) partner with me to develop the office Wordle app or c) send him a percentage of the proceeds."

"When he informed me that he wasn’t interested in that, I told him I would consider changing the name and was looking at other options when Apple removed the app and was fully prepared to do so," he wrote.

Wardle and Shakked did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Shakked tweeted his comments after many people called him out for trying to monetize the game. Shakked said he even went "private because I was getting harassed from every which direction."

Some online urged users to forgo downloading the app to avoid supporting it.

“Don’t download the Wordle app on iOS,” a Twitter user wrote.

Others simply blasted Shakked.

Using the shorthand for "free to play," the blogger and technologist Andy Baio tweeted: "This guy shamelessly cloned Wordle (name and all) as an F2P iOS game with in-app purchases and is bragging about how well it's doing and how he'll get away with it because Josh Wardle didn't trademark it. So gross."