– how does What 3 Words work?


I understand the basic concept, ie dividing the planet up into small squares, each with a unique reference, but surely somehow you need to know the 3 words involved in order to find that precise location? And if you know the location to begin with, through eg Google Earth/apple maps etc, does it not become a bit redundant? If you’re in trouble somewhere and actually have a connection to the web/GPS, then surely a decent enough OS/map reference would suffice?
I’m not 5 but still confused! Thanks…

In: 0

I think it’s meant to find a specific location (again) that doesn’t have an adress. Like “where did I park my car in this huge parking lot”, or “where in this festival camping ground was my tent” or “Where was my nice spot around that lake”

So kinda a niche application in most cases

It’s a way of communicating locations, not determining where you are or anything like that. After all the words aren’t painted on the ground.

If you ring someone up, how would you tell them exactly where you are? Your phone knows where it is, but it can be surprisingly hard to communicate that location.

The point is that it’s *much* easier to communicate and remember three relatively common English words than a string of numbers. It’s basically [correct horse battery staple](https://xkcd.com/936/) for locations.

The thing is that if you write a number down, it’s not very easy to spot if you got it right. Even for you, just writing it.

And the recipient has to deal with things like interpreting if you are one of those people who write difficult 1:s and 7:s or if your 6:s kind of look like your 5:s.

Numbers are easy to get wrong in verbal communication.

A complete word has the benefit that even if you spell it wrong, it’s not offering a hundred different alternatives to choose from (And w3w have thought about that and deliberately chosen words that are in many cases difficult to mix together with poor spelling.) which means that it helps to an extent with both poor literacy AND dyslexia.

Is it a perfect solution? No. Of course not.

When w3w came out, it was adapted by the postal service in…Mongolia, I think. Because they needed a better way to communicate nomading recipients addresses.

They are not good for your typical user case, but they are good enough to make a difference for some user cases that are hard to imagine if you don’t think about it.

Thanks all for your responses. The fact that it only really pinpoints locations you already know, or businesses etc makes more sense, and the concept of remembering words more easily than a string of numbers/characters (of course there had to be an XKCD about the subject! Thanks u/cnash).
I think my initial misgivings were that when it first launched there was a lot of mis-reporting (not necessarily by W3W, but through typically lazy journalism) as to its overall uses, specifically regarding how it was going to transform emergency/rescue services that caused my initial confusion/scepticism.
I was imagining conversations with friends and family along the lines of ‘On Wednesday at 3.30 pm I’m going to fall and break my ankle in a ravine at ‘waffle chair sporadic’ if you could come and pick me up.’ I realise now that once the location is pinpointed it is a useful tool to help direct others to said location.
Thanks again!