Champ is a five-letter word: Google announces ‘Wordle’ as most popular search term
If you had to guess the most Googled term of 2022, what do you think it would be? Guesses like ‘Covid-19’, ‘Queen Elizabeth’ or most recently ‘Twitter’ would all be fair game, considering they’re among the most discussed events of the year. But, perhaps surprisingly to players who forgot the trend quickly, ‘Wordle’ has topped the global charts as the most searched term on Google this year. In addition to being the reigning word, the game has also expanded our collective vocabulary – with the most searched-for word definitions in 2022 being Wordle answers.
In case you missed the craze (or you already forgot about it), Wordle is an online game where players have a maximum of six attempts to guess the word of the day. The word is always five letters long and is the same for every player. It was released in 2021 by software engineer Josh Wardle, and for a brief period in 2022 it was the subject on everyone’s mind. Both in conversations and on social media, the majority of people were fixated on guessing the word of the day, comparing strategies and scores. Wordle spawned a variety of popular spinoffs, such as Quordle (where a player must guess four different words), Heardle (where a player must guess a song from the first few seconds), and thousands of other niche versions for different online communities.
Among the top ten definitions searched for in 2022, cacao, homer, canny, foray, trove, saute, and tacit were all Wordle answers.
Wordle was able to achieve world domination — or should that be ‘worldle’ domination — due to the simple nature of the game, growing so popular that it was purchased by The New York Times for $1 million in March 2022. Being a free game, Wordle was accessible to anyone with an internet browser and didn’t require any tech expertise, meaning that anyone could play it, regardless of age or experience. It also generated online traction due to the use of obscure words, which had people reaching for their (virtual) dictionary. Among the top ten definitions searched for in 2022, cacao, homer, canny, foray, trove, saute, and tacit were all Wordle answers.
For a short period of time, you couldn’t move for people asking you if you’d already guessed the word of the day and being ‘spoiled’ became the equivalent of a Marvel movie spoiler for some players. As well as generating endless spinoffs and clones, the Wordle obsession that gripped the world also inspired jokes and memes on social media. This only led to the game’s audience growing further and faster, creating a worldwide phenomenon that was equivalent to the summer when Pokémon Go was released, with Wordle attracting a similarly universal love.
The rapid success and fall of Wordle may seem like a surprise, but is actually in line with the success pattern of other similar games
Although Wordle reached the peak of its success in February, declining shortly after the Times purchase took place, it still attracts a large audience on a regular basis. Similar to a daily sudoku or crossword, a handful of dedicated players still enjoy completing it every day, while others only play once in a while. However, due to our short attention span in the age of internet trends, most people have already forgotten about the little game that gathered so many fans. It seems that, like Pokémon Go, Wordle will soon become a source of nostalgia for the majority of its audience, despite its initial popularity.
The rapid success and fall of Wordle may seem like a surprise, but is actually in line with the success pattern of other similar games: when crosswords were first introduced in the 1920s, there was such a craze for the new puzzle that it was suggested they would impact productivity more than labour strikes. Today, we may enjoy the occasional crossword, but the mania for them has certainly died down — it seems likely that Wordle, much like its predecessors, will be treated the same way a hundred years from now.