In a gesture as unsurprising as it is disappointing, The New York Times begins to weigh in with all its weight when it comes to wordlethe old freedom. The first big sign of this, as spotted by Ars-Technicado they force a Word Archive switch off.
There’s no doubt who owns this archive of five-letter word puzzles. the Times spent at least a million dollars to do so, and they are clearly within their rights to prevent others from hosting these exact games. At the same time, they do not offer an equivalent archive service, and those who do have always been careful not to post the riddle of the day, so as not to step unnecessarily on the toes of the greatest. So yeah, it’s predictable, but it still sucks some magic out of the universe.
It is worth noting that “wordle archive” is the largest of all wordle– associated search term to Google, a fact which probably done the Word Archive one of the biggest competitors to the official daily puzzles hosted by the Times. Word Archive now only shows a message thanking players, and explaining that the log “requested that the Word Archive be dismantled. They then proceed to plug in their new puzzle, a game called Word grid.
This decision raises worrying questions about these eighty-five thousand wordle clones that we enjoy every day. If the NOW doesn’t want people to host the previous puzzles they’ve otherwise tossed into the ether, so what do they think of games like Unlimited words, duordle, Quordle, octordle, sedecordle…they’re all basically just wordle, but played simultaneously. And if they’re really hungry, what about the fallout? Nerdle, World, Global, Chess, Absurd… Well, the good news is that they are, for the most part, probably safe.
wordle is so spectacularly derived itself, the NOW would struggle to pull off a direct copy of the game one for one. Currently in the UK, a licensed version of the US game show Jargon is lit every afternoon, operating on exactly the same principle. The American version of Jargon had three runs, airing as early as 1987, and returns for a fourth incarnation later that year on CBS, hosted by Ru Paul.
Even this is a derivation of a 1955 pen and paper game, Jottolike Wikipedia observed. But it is also a variant of Cows & Bullsa game that dates back perhaps a century, and on which Brainthe game of pegs and boards, was born in the 1970s. That says it all, The New York Times has no leg to stand on if he were to try to stop clones based on format.
I notice Ars followed the same story from the game (damn them for their equally thorough work) and spoke to a lawyer who suggested that the clones are not affected by copyright unless they reproduce “the ‘expression’ of the idea, rather than the idea itself. However, where the Times could become more insistent on the use of the mark. “Wordle” as a collection of letters is now theirs, thanks to the madness of capitalism, so games that use the exact letters – like Unlimited words and Crossword-might need a name change. And it’s technically possible that they could claim that the “dle” suffix is too close to their brands, but the negative press would be spectacular. I would be surprised. But then, I often am.
The other thing the clones/spin-offs might want to think about at this point is their presentation. Many games use wordlethe very familiar green/yellow tiles and clean layout, so if the NOW becomes unpleasantly legal, these games might start getting uncomfortable letters.
Read more: With Wordle Archive you can play all the Wordles that came before whenever you want
It should be noted that the archive that was closed was of course not the only one.