Watch CBS News

What Is 'Wordle'? And Why Is It So Popular?

Originally published on Jan. 17, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Chances are you have seen colorful boxes popping up all over your social media feeds in people's tweets and Facebook posts.

They're the answer boxes from a new internet sensation called "Wordle."

The rules are straightforward. Users try to guess the five-letter word of the day. They get six attempts. Green signifies a correct letter and location, while yellow means correct letter in the wrong spot. Once finished, users are encouraged to share their results.

"I enjoy it. I think it's fun," said Aaron Frankl. "It's just a really quick thing to do every day."

Scott Kinney finished Monday's puzzle in two tries. It took Barbara Nelson four tries, her first time playing the game.

"I feel very good about that," Nelson said.

Why is "Wordle" so popular?

"Simplicity is the key to having success," said Brandon Gains, vice president of MonetizeMore, a marketing agency that helps websites and apps build their business through advertising.

The first aspect of "Wordle" that he feels people enjoy is the scarcity. There's only one word per day, meaning users are only playing the game for a few minutes. It also gives them something new to look forward each day.

"It doesn't feel like a time commitment," Frankl said.

(credit: CBS)

The user interface is also easy to navigate. There's no advertisements or menus when you open up the website. It's just the game.

"Our world is very distracting. You need to stand out, and that level of simplicity plus scarcity is how you get people to build a habit with your app, website," Gains said.

"I think the biggest thing is me and my friends always send our scores," Frankl said.

Whether it's a text message thread or social media, users are handling all of the marketing by sharing their scores. A spokesperson for Twitter said "Wordle" has been tweeted about 1.3 million times in 2022. That represents 94% of the tweets about the game since Nov. 1, 2021, showcasing how the popularity has skyrocketed in recent weeks.

"That's worth its weight in gold," Gains said.

The act of users connecting with others over the game, bragging about their scores, and creating engagement is what he calls "social currency."

"For each person talking about it, it kind of creates a loop of a new person trying it and just continues to grow from that point," he said.

The enjoyment of piecing letters together is nothing new. "Scrabble" is one of the most popular board games. Crossword puzzles keep giving people ink rub on their hands. "Wheel of Fortune" has maintained viewers after several decades on-air.

The app-based "Words with Friends" had a big boom in the smartphone era. All of those games, however, take much more time than "Wordle," which could help it create staying power. Or not, according to Kinney.

"This one will die out," he joked.

The game's creator, Josh Wardle, told NPR there's 2.7 million people playing the game. He's also glad it's helped friends and family find a way to stay connected in the pandemic.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.