Home Correction app Word!” the app predated ‘Wordle’ by 6 years. Then Josh Wardle’s game went viral.

Word!” the app predated ‘Wordle’ by 6 years. Then Josh Wardle’s game went viral.

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Cravotta’s beloved side project has since become the App Store’s No. 1 game in eight countries, and the 24-year-old is enjoying that success for a good cause – and with Wardle’s blessing. This week, Cravotta is donating $50,000 of revenue generated from his “Wordle!” application to a charity they have agreed on.

“It’s crazy to think back to that time when I was building [‘Wordle!’], because I was literally reading a dictionary on the internet and putting words in the game manually,” Cravotta told The Washington Post via Zoom. “I had no idea it was going to explode like this on the road.”

The word !” de Cravotta sits at 8 million downloads and is only available in the Apple App Store. It offers a few different games that allow players to guess or spell words with a limited number of attempts. By contrast, Wardle’s “Wordle,” which The New York Times recently acquired for an undisclosed seven-figure price, is a unique game that gives users six chances to guess a daily five-letter word.

Wardle’s game, currently only playable through a web browser, launched in October and gained popularity largely thanks to Twitter, with users sharing encrypted photos of their green tile victories. Its success has since spawned a wave of thematic adaptations and knockoffs – some of which have attempted to take advantage of the mistaken identity.

Given the similarity in the names of Wardle’s and Cravotta’s creations, naturally some players have been confused as to which game is which.

“Confession, I played the wrong ‘Wordle'”, a user tweeted earlier this month.

Cravotta first became aware of the app’s success around Christmas. The developer was home spending time with his family in Atlanta and hadn’t paid much attention to the app’s metrics dashboard for a few days. At the time, “Wordle!” on average about two to three downloads per day.

“I had no reason to make this app other than I loved doing it,” he said. “It was my passion. And you know, I didn’t think anything would come of it, I just thought it would be cool for my friends to play a game that I put on the App Store.

When he finally checked the app’s stats that week, he saw a single vertical line that shot up, indicating a major increase in downloads. Initially, Cravotta, although fake accounts or spammers are responsible – after all, what app gets half a million downloads in less than a week, seemingly out of nowhere?

“I thought someone sent bot downloads to my app, or something,” he said. “But I did a quick Google search, and obviously Josh Wardle’s game came up – ‘Wordle’.”

He rushed downstairs to tell his parents the good news.

“I freaked out,” said Cravotta, who is now based in Santa Monica, Calif. “I was like, ‘This is crazy. This guy made this great game, and people are confusing it with mine.’

While the “Word!” The app costs nothing to download, developers of free apps can still earn revenue through in-app advertising, in-app purchases, or affiliate marketing. After noticing his app’s revenue spike, Cravotta immediately messaged Wardle developer-to-developer about the confusion.

“I read how [Wardle initially] didn’t want to put ads on it or make revenue from his game — and I respected that,” he said.

Despite the similarities between the games, right down to the titles, Cravotta said it never crossed his mind to take legal action.

“Absolutely never crossed my mind,” he said. “Josh and I rather teamed up to have a positive impact on the world. We built each other up.

With Wardle’s support, Cravotta decided to donate $50,000 of app revenue to Boost West Oakland. Boost offers free tutoring and mentoring to children in Oakland, Calif., the city where Wardle, who now lives in Brooklyn, was based. Considering that both games centered on word puzzles, Cravotta felt the money should go to a literacy-focused nonprofit. Wardle agreed.

“It was almost fate that Josh and I were connected,” Cravotta said. “What’s great about our generation is that we’re not here to chase each other, but to uplift each other’s ideas and make the world a better place while doing it.”

But as well as developing apps, working at an ad agency and running his own TikTok ad agency, Cravotta – wearing a plain white t-shirt – said he wasn’t too different from the rest 24 year olds. Besides being an entrepreneur and a big gamer, he loves Italian pasta, going to the beach and inspiring his friends to create their own unique projects.

“That’s what I love to do – create cool stuff,” Cravotta said.

Cravotta’s career was inspired by his role model father, who has a background in sales. Growing up with social media, it wasn’t long before he found himself promoting products and showing businesses how to gain traction online. Yet he felt that something was missing.

“I wanted to promote something that I built – something that belonged to me,” he said. “And that’s sort of how I started developing my own products. And that led me to building websites that I could put ads on, and then building apps that I could promote and, you know, generate revenue.

Cravotta learned to code, build websites, and eventually build apps by watching YouTube videos — it was all part of his hustle at the time.

“It was the coolest feeling in the world to build something that other people used,” he said.

Although there is a lot of uncertainty in the world of entrepreneurship and content development, Cravotta said taking risks is part of the experience.

“I think a big part of success is just betting on yourself. That’s kind of what I’m going through,” he said. “And that’s definitely one of my main goals – to inspire other young entrepreneurs to start doing it. Even if you don’t see the long-term benefits yet, just start doing things you’re passionate about.

His latest project, Puff Count, which is also free on the App Store, helps people manage their vaping habits to quit. Cravotta created the app after watching several of his close friends struggle with vaping addiction. The app reached 30,000 downloads in the first month.

“If I was building games that got hundreds of thousands of downloads, I knew I could build a product that could help the same number of people live healthier lives,” he said.

Looking ahead, Cravotta would like to create and develop apps that meet this larger goal of helping people.

“I think making games is cool,” he said. “But I’m definitely much more interested in creating products that help people live better lives. And that’s not to say that I won’t be building games in the future, but I think right now that’s my main mission. I think that’s what I’m here to do.

Amanda Florian is a freelance journalist based in the United States and Shanghai, China. His specialties include Internet culture, language, music and the new media scene in China. Florian’s work has appeared on CNN, NBC, USA Today, Discover Magazine, Rest of World, The Charlotte Observer, and more.