If you haven't heard of W3W, this is a clever and free tool to pinpoint any three square meter area on the surface of the earth using only three english words.

For example, the three words graphics, dads, inched in that order pinpoint the Eiffel tower.

I think this is all a really neat idea, but it also comes off as a solution in search of a problem. For the rest of this article, I'll show a few interesting problems I've found and thought up that this tool might solve.

Meeting someone face to face

Imagine you're on a hike and a friend is comes up to join you later. You can very easily just pull out your phone and grab the three-meter-square location where they can find you.

Even if you're in constant communication with someone on your smartphone, GPS is only so accurate. Say you're waiting for a friend to pick you up; you can tell them what building you're in, but they'll also need to know what entrance to go to.

It's probably easier to send them three words rather than "go around to the side of the building facing McClellan St. There's a dumpster on the side and the door is to the left of it."

Imagine if everyone had this on their phones how much easier it would be for an Uber or Lyft driver to find you at the airport to pick up.

Emergencies

For similar reasons, emergency responses can be better pinpointed, especially in rough terrain or where traditional street and building design is not present.

Memorization

A new address is nontrivial to memorize. There's probably a number at the front of it, and the street name may not roll off the tongue. It's probably just easier to memorize your friend's addresses in this format. Here's an example with some randomly found addresses from the Google Maps API-powered typeahead on W3W followed by their W3W interpretation.

Conventional

  • 732 Bounty Dr, Foster City, CA
  • 8023 Holanda Ln, Dublin, CA
  • 1212 Nebraska Avenue, Kansas City, KS
  • 732 Mischler Rd, Eau Claire, WI

W3W addresses

  • noisy.beast.curving
  • frock.museum.stays
  • cost.cars.dared
  • strike.pioneering.canines

Addresses for people without addresses

It's surprising from the perspective of someone in a developed nation that there are still people living without so much as an address to find them. This article does a swell job explaining more on the subject.

Room for Improvement

I'm in love with the concept, but I have reservations with the execution. This straight-to-the-point article does well to cover my own thoughts with perhaps more fervor than I have about them.

Briefly, a system like this must be an open source concept, not a proprietary product of a third party company. Additionally, the words used in one language versus another are entirely different. I admit, that's not an easy problem to solve as words cannot just be translated over one-to-one between languages like ladder rungs. Nevertheless, it just doesn't feel right to do it this way.

While the technology is proprietary, projects like freews have managed to reverse engineer the technology, but according to Wikipedia, the company has not been shy to issue copyright claims against such efforts. This means you'll need to pay up to access their API. As an open standard, it could be hosted by independent sources.

There's also the potential to map out the z axis, so as to indicate where in a multi-floor building one can be found. Should that give the product an optional fourth word or are the possibilities numerous enough that three words can continue covering three dimensional space up to a reasonable height?