There are two types of social media users: those who are addicted to Wordle and those who are puzzled by the little green and yellow squares their friends keep sharing on Twitter. The simple word game consists of guessing a hidden five-letter word in six tries with correct letters in the correct position showing up green; the correct letter in the wrong position showing up yellow and the wrong letter showing up grey. It may sound basic but the formula has become a viral phenomenon in recent months with the 90 fans who played it in November soaring to a current 300,000.
The inventor of the original English version, Welsh-born software engineer Josh Wardle, created it during the pandemic to entertain his partner – a word game addict, as he told The New York Times. He then got his family to play on a group chat and it later became popular thanks to Twitter and Facebook.
The game’s simplicity is, in fact, the key to its success. The player accesses a no-frills page, with no fee, registration or advertising, and tries to guess a five-letter word in a similar format to the legendary code-breaking game, Mastermind. Wardle only poses one challenge a day, an idea he borrowed from The New York Times’ Spelling Bee, so his followers have to wait 24 hours to play again. But the game is perhaps more engaging because of this. Once it has been played several times, a question arises: is there an optimal method to solve the puzzle and reduce the number of tries?