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FAQ

Isn't the world pretty well addressed?

Actually no. Around 75% of the world suffers from inconsistent, complicated, poor or no addressing systems. In total 4 billion people around the world don't have an address.

But even in the countries in the world where addressing works ok, it's far from perfect.

For example, there are eight different Lonsdale Roads around London; a lot of houses don't have numbers; an address can't tell you the correct entrance to a large building; when abroad the addressing can be difficult to understand.

Often you want to talk about somewhere that doesn't actually have a street address.

What about the pin on my mobile phone?

Dropping a pin on your phone tells you where you are pretty well and sharing that location with someone who is also on the same app is pretty easy.

However that only deals with where you are now, it doesn't help you refer to a fixed place, or if someone is not using the same app, or if that someone doesn't have a data connection, of it they want to remember it, or if they want to use that location in a different app.

How do I use it?

If you want to get a 3-word address for your current location or elsewhere, you can tap on the locate me button to get close or search for a street address, then you can zoom to see the 3mx3m grid and move the map & pin to find the exact spot. Switching to satellite view helps when you are zoomed in.

How many languages are you in?

We have rolled out our 3-word address system into 8 languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, Turkish & Swedish.

We are adding to those every month and are currently working on Italian, Greek, Arabic, Swahili and more.

What language should I use?

You can use any of them.

If you are Russian and want to use what3words to tell other Russians about addresses in Mexico, you can use верба.осенний.редька – a spot just outside Mexico City. But equally you might see the address in English, or Spanish in a guidebook. You can use any of them.

You can choose the 3-word language that we display 3-word addresses to you in, but you never have to tell us what language you are inputting the 3-word addresses in: we will recognise the language automatically.

Is a 3-word address in French (or any other language) a translation of the same 3 words in English?

No: the 3-word address in one language is not a translation of the 3 words used in a different language version.

What about swear words, and words that sound the same?

We have taken out offensive words and homophones (e.g. sale & sail), and have shuffled all of our similar sounding (e.g. plurals) 3-word locations as far away from each other as possible so it's obvious if you have made a mistake. It's better to be 400 miles out than 1 mile out so you know instantly that you're wrong and don't set off to the wrong place!

Do I need to have the app?

You can use a browser on your computer, tablet or smartphone to discover, input & share a 3-word address. The what3words app has many nice features, but it's not essential as you can always use the what3words website.

Do others need to have the app if I send them a 3-word address?

You can send a 3-word address to anyone, with the reassurance that if the receiving user hasn't yet got the app, they can still access your location via their computer, tablet or smartphone browser.

Where can I use what3words?

The applications for what3words are varied. Companies for whom specifying and communicating a precise location is very important are integrating our technology via our API and SDK.

Around the world what3words is being integrated into navigation systems, car-share apps and property sites as well as being used by couriers, taxis and travel solutions.

Can I use it with navigation apps like Google & Waze?

You can specify a 3-word address in the what3words app or what3words website, and then by choosing the Navigate option, you can open that location in navigation apps installed on your device. This includes Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze and CityMapper.

Can I type it in to Google maps?

Not yet. We do have a variety of partner apps and services where you can input a 3-word address straight into their interface. Soon we hope to have what3words supported in all of the world's major mapping and navigation apps.

How can I share or send a 3-word address?

Clicking on the share button in our app or site allows you to send 3 words via SMS, email, social media and any messaging apps you have installed. You can also copy it or of course tell people in conversation or write it down.

Do you do height or indoors?

We do indoors, in 2D, just not 3D, i.e. height or altitude. The supporting technology (indoor positioning, indoor mapping, indoor navigation) is not yet widespread enough for there to be any great benefit of specifying a point with height included.

However, if and when height becomes helpful to specify, we have various options for including this information.

Can you work without a data connection?

Yes: the entire what3words' system is tiny, and so it can work offline when a user doesn't have a data connection. The what3words app and our partner apps and services typically launch using the online version of our system, but offline support is now being included in more and more apps that use what3words (including our own).

What about latitude & longitude (GPS co-ordinates)?

We love latitude & longitude and have based what3words on it. We take those long strings of numbers & letters and convert them to three simple words.

You need 16 digits, 2 characters (+/-/N/S/E/W), 2 decimal points, and a space/comma/new line to specify a location to an accuracy of 3 metres using GPS co-ordinates. That's great for computers and devices when humans don't get involved, but humans actually do get involved. what3words is a human interface for latitude & longitude.

Will the words ever change?

No: because the what3words system is fixed, and it's impossible to change it, there is 100% certainty that all instances of the system running everywhere in the world will provide the same 3-word address for the same location. You don't have to worry about anything changing. It is fixed already and will stay that way.

If you want to get a 3 word address for somewhere other than your current location, you can use a street address to get close, but then you should zoom and move the map (feel free to use satellite view) to find the exact spot.

How big is it? 57 trillion is a lot of addresses!

The entire what3words system is 5MB. This is small enough to fit within an app so that users can use what3words when online or offline i.e. you don't need a data connection to find your current 3-word address or search for a 3-word address you have been given.

Why did you use 3 words rather than 2 words or 4 words?

Dividing the world into 3m x 3m squares (which is small enough to be useful for almost all practical purposes) gives you 57 trillion squares so…

- With 1 word you can uniquely name 40,000 3m x 3m squares, so that's every 3m x 3m square in a small village. But the world is bigger than this so it would be useless system.

- With a sequence of 2 words you can uniquely name 1,600,000,000 3m x 3m squares, so that's every 3m x 3m square in an area the size of Hawaii. But the world is bigger than this so it would be a useless system.

- With a sequence of 3 words you can uniquely name 64,000,000,000,000 3m x 3m squares, so that's every 3m x 3m square in the world (actually we have a few combinations spare).

- With a sequence of 4 words, we could uniquely identify every 3m x 3m square in an area in 40,000 times the size of the world, but there would be no point. If mankind inhabits the sun anytime soon, we'll be all over it, literally, with a minor branding adjustment.

What if I spell wrong or say a word incorrectly?

Human beings make errors – lots of errors. Our system is optimized to recognise and autocorrect both sharer and receiver mistakes. The what3words autocorrect system picks up errors in spelling, typing, speaking, and mishearing 3-word locations.

We have shuffled all of our similar sounding 3-word locations as far away from each other as possible, so we can use your location to intelligently guess where you meant. A lot of the time with street addresses, the similar sounding addresses are near enough to each other it can be very confusing and often results in huge delays whilst the user works out what has gone wrong and what the right address actually is.

Can I create my own 3 words?

No: the what3words system is a fixed global grid of 57 trillion 3-word addresses so you can't personalize your own three words for a location.

However we have a system called OneWords, which allows you to personalize a shortcut to any 3-word location.

E.g. w3w.co/*w3wLondon is a OneWord shortcut to 3-word address w3w.co/index.home.raft

OneWords have the benefit of being customisable, but they have some drawbacks compared to the main 3-word system. All of our users considering buying a OneWord should be aware of the limitations:

OneWords aren't fixed like the 3-word system. We maintain a central database of OneWords, therefore anyone searching for a OneWord will, by their very nature, need a data connection for our app (or a partner service's app) to check that OneWord's location with our central database. Compare this to 3-word addressing which can work even when a user doesn't have a data connection.

OneWords don't work as well as 3-word addresses with autocorrect. Because table.chair.lamp is so far from table.chair.lamps (in this case they are on different continents), our autocorrect can be very effective intercepting errors in spelling, typing, speaking, and mishearing 3-word addresses. OneWords are not so well suited as a similar sounding could be near another, or not.

OneWords don't work as well with voice input (voice input is an important part of our plans). Because similar sounding results are shuffled around, the autocorrect features as described above are just as powerful for a voice engine to correctly work out what you said (or meant to say), even when the voice recognition itself isn't perfect. OneWords, due to their customisable nature, won't work so well with voice recognition, especially if non-dictionary words are used.

OneWords aren't as quick – you have to assign one or move one to a location before sharing. Because 3-words addresses are already pre-assigned they are quick and easy.

However, OneWords can be a useful bookmarking tool for some users: it's just important that users fully understand the respective strengths vs weaknesses. If in doubt, use a 3-word address.

Are OneWords case sensitive?

No: OneWords are not case sensitive, so for example *Hotel234 will take you to exactly the same place as *hotel234. Therefore you can give out your OneWords with reassurance that, however people choose to capitalise your OneWord, they will always be directed to the correct place.

Are there any restrictions for what OneWord I can choose?

Yes: you can buy a OneWord which is made up from letters a-z, numbers 0-9, and hyphens (-). OneWords cannot include any spaces.

You cannot infringe the intellectual property of any party with your OneWord. For example you cannot use any party's trademarks as part or all of your OneWord.

OneWords must be at least 6 characters in length (shorter OneWords may become available in the future).

Why does my OneWord start with an asterisk symbol?

Every OneWord has to be used with a * before it to make clear to our (or a partner's) system that you are searching for a registered OneWord and not just doing a general map search for the same term. So for example you must always enter *JohnOffice or w3w.co/*JohnOffice – and searching for *London / London will take you to two different places.

Also, remember to display your OneWord with the * in any public places, emails to friends/customers, websites etc. to ensure that it is always entered correctly.

Can I use OneWords straight away?

Yes: your OneWord will be active straight away. As soon as you complete your purchase, you can share your OneWord with anyone or put it on your website to help people find your location.

What is the “Additional Info” field within the OneWord account options?

You may want people who have your OneWord to also have your postal address for reassurance. If so, you can enter it in the optional fields in the “Edit OneWord” screen. You can also choose to enter a phone number or any special instructions. This additional information is completely optional and you may choose not to add it, but it means you do have the option of giving your OneWord out and knowing that the recipient can access your postal address, phone number and “ring top bell” (or similar) as well as your precise location!

Can I buy several OneWords?

Yes: you can purchase as many as you like. For example, many of our users like to have a OneWord for their front door at home, as well as for some of their favourite places. And our business users typically buy a OneWord for the main customer entrances to each of their locations, be it offices, hotels, cafes or even car parking spaces!

Will my OneWord be public?

The privacy of a OneWord is much like a telephone number that is not listed in the telephone directory. It will be private to you, and anyone who you choose to share it with. Obviously if you put your OneWord in a publicly viewable place such as a website, it will be public to those who see it. It will not be public in any kind of address book or listing on the what3words website; if a user searches for a location which has a OneWord associated with it, the OneWord will not be displayed, only the free 3 word combination will be shown.

Can I change my OneWord?

No: you cannot change your OneWord once you've bought it. On the other hand, you can change the capitalisation of any of the letters (e.g. to change *johnoffice to *JohnOffice).

Can I move a OneWord?

Yes: you can move the location that your OneWord refers to as many times as you wish for free. You can do this within the “my account” section of the site.