Move aside Waze and Google Maps. What3words are gaining users and popularity


What3Words, founded in 2013 is a new global addressing system based on a three-metre by three-metre (3mx3m) global grid splitting the entire world into 57 trillion 3-metre by 3-metre squares – with each square possessing its own unique three-word address assigned by the company’s algorithm. E.g., the following locations are denoted and identified by these 3 words:


  1. sourcing.quaking.handicaps - Hong Kong Legislative Council

  2. sulk.held.raves - White House in Washington, US

  3. nail.hush.lawful - Tiananmen Square, Beijing


This means in practice that using three words assembled at random will refer consistently to a defined area of the Earth's surface that measures 3mx3m.


For example, 'table.plug.lamp' refers to a 3mx3m location in Long Island, New York, but 'table.plug.fireplace' takes you to New South Wales in Australia.


The best way to understand the system is to think of a What3Words address as the geographical equivalent of an IP address. Every accessible machine or device on the internet is identified by a series of four numbers between 0 and 255 (IPv4) E.g., 130.88.98.244. The number of possible combinations has been adequate so far, but as the internet expands a new version of IP addressing is being adopted that combines eight groups of four hexadecimal numbers (IPv6).  In the same way, What3Words decided to use random words instead of numerical sequences because it believes humans find them more easy to remember. 


When a user enters the What3Words website or app and searches for a place, it will show the location of the front entrance by identifying a 3mx3m area at the entrance. Because each address refers uniquely to such a small area, separate W3W addresses can be used to identify multiple locations, such as goods and vehicle entrances as well as front doors. The beauty of 3words is that it functions without a data connection. This solves a perpetual constraint when in remote and unaddressed locations, or in areas with poor connectivity.

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