I’ve been watching with interest the jousting between Scrabulous and Hasbro the last year or so.

Scrabulous is an online game that lets you play Scrabble on the web or by email.  It has grown exponentially since its debut in July 2006, thanks mostly to Facebook users.

I was interested because, as some of you know, I’ve had my own email-based Scrabble offering since August 1997 (yes, eleven years already!)–which I’ll call SM on this blog.  SM has hosted over 24,000 games since its inception.

I’ve kept SM very low profile to avoid Hasbro’s notoriously nasty lawyers, and am amazed it has escaped their view this long.  I’ve done no advertising, intentionally make no money on it, and encourage all my users to play on a real Scrabble board at home, in the hopes that will lessen any potential accusations of breach of copyright.

SM received a jump in usership several years ago when Hasbro discontinued their own online Scrabble offering despite much protest from their fans.  Many of the fans found SM and are still loyal players.

When Scrabulous started gaining popularity, interestingly, SM got another big boost!  I believe people heard about Scrabulous by word of mouth, couldn’t remember the name when they got home, so did a search for “scrabble by email” and found SM.  Just goes to show competition can be good.

Scrabulous’ successes and the lack of response from Hasbro initially had me wishing I’d been more brave with SM and had tried to commercialize it after all.  But Hasbro has decided to show its teeth after all, creating a new official online Scrabble game with Vancouver-based EA and two weeks later suing Scrabulous and instructing Facebook to remove Scrabulous from its site.  (I have not yet tried the official game (nor Scrabulous for that matter).  Have any of you?)

EA’s offering, I understand, will only be available to North American players.  Hasbro claims that most players want to play with friends or family nearby, but my experience with SM is that a majority of players are playing with someone across the ocean.  I guess there’s life for SM still.

So I’m back to being content with a low-key SM, which is down to a relatively low 150 games going on at any one time (at its two peaks it was around 500).  I continue to keep it running because it involves very little of my time to maintain, and because of the lovely uplifting comments that come in once in a while, like this one I received today from Idaho:

My mother and I have been playing on line using SM for several years now.  She’s 81 years old, and has lived alone (800 miles from where I live) since my father passed away in 2002.  SM has provided a way for us to play our favorite game (as well as keeping in touch with daily e-mails).  I know you wrote the program so you could play with your family, but your project has meant a great deal to our family.  Again, many sincere thanks.