A good number of emergency services are using an actual baggage handling system from the 1980’s. If you think lobbying them will grow the magic money tree that they’ve been hiding in the face of continuous cuts from government where their funding comes from then go ahead and lobby.

This is the perfect example of a (well intentioned I know) private individual/company making a statement on a system they know nothing about. It’s not as easy as “oh yeah we should just change our system” because you need money and time and actually for emergency services we can’t have “downtime” to upgrade or to change systems over because we need to be there every second of every day.

Change in these situation takes actual decades. Literal decades. We need solutions that actually take that into account, instead of just very… easy to say but not easy to actually realistically do solutions.

I have zero affinity towards W3W, but until someone comes along with an actual credible alternative that has been shown to work, fits in with current working practices, fits in with already squeezed budgets for the public sector then I’ll at least defend the fact it fits in with all of the above.

I appreciate your aversion within a non-emergency services setting, but I just honestly wish you could spend just one hour listening to how people in emergencies actually behave. They often forget their own telephone number and on numerous occasions people have forgotten their own house number. They remember the local park though, or the local street name, or the local name of the small path running alongside the cemetery - because they are words.

Reading three words will always be easier than reading 12 digits in a specific order, and sorry to be blunt (!!) but I don’t care what people think should work, but rather I care about what actually works


Plus codes are also open for use without license restrictions or heavy licensing fees.

That leaves us two systems for coordinates ( not counting map grid systems), gps which I’d count as a low level system, and plus codes which are a shorter slightly higher level system. Plus codes cover a large number of what3words apparent use cases as well.

What3words could make a good day to day local or even global system for more human use, but unless they open up the coordinate system it’s dead on arrival.


One of the issues is that numbers don’t naturally come to people when they’re in distress

I’m sure it was mentioned that phone location sharing is limited and operators aren’t necessarily equipped to effectively handle Google/Apple location pings

W3W could indeed be more effective than postal addresses. ///plus.account.party is much easier to find than Rose Cottage, AB1 2CD, Wales; where AB1 2CD covers an area the size of London. All addresses as examples, of course.

I think once they see wider adoption and they find a different way to ensure profitability, they might open up. Until then I’d be happy to see anyone else build a more open, free tool that makes coordinates equally easy (for humans) to communicate


They do this already in Mongolia. Their country changed over to them for postal systems.

The limitations for London would mostly come from the fact height isn’t a factor.

I have been in situations before where I was trying to find a vague address like Rose Cottage, Bush Rd, AB1 2CD. The problem was that Bush Rd was miles long, all the same post code and Rose Cottage wasn’t on Google Maps. W3W would’ve made it a million times easier to find the place.

I can see the limitations in London, but maybe people could say 3rd floor, ///random.test.words - even with cultural differences, you only have to check two floors to find the individual


How so? Would W3W have that address in its database? If you mean knowing the 3 words to get the exact location the same would apply to gps coordinates?

Well, it does sound like it would be worthwhile changing that system! The UK gov have found the magic money tree, they just don’t want to spend it on the NHS unfortunately. Glad that W3W works for you though in that use case, as you point out it’s more practical for you than alternatives and if they fold or start charging money you can just move on to using something else.

If it were not a private database they want to charge for I’d agree with you it would be worth looking at for a human-readable addressing system, though prior art like domain -> IP suggests alternatives that might be better (e.g. rose.powys.wales) and are not locked in to some nasty scheme where only one company controls mapping words to numbers.

For most directions online, a link to gps coordinates (which every browser and mapping app understands) is far better and works transparently. This system adds nothing to that, in fact it makes it harder and ties it to a private database and single point of failure.

As it is (depends on proprietary data that the company won’t even let you cache) I wouldn’t touch it for addressing - longevity, resiliance and pricing are both in severe doubt. When this startup folds in a few years, as it has a roughly 90% chance of doing, anyone dependent on it for addressing would have to change everything about their address system - a dependency like that is exactly what you don’t want in a postal system which should last decades or even hundreds of years.

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An older person won’t give you coordinates. If you ask them to open a website and read three words will be much more natural to them. Similarly you won’t address post with GPS coordinates but if you replace post codes with W3W it’s suddenly much better


My personal opinion is that I agree on this.

They have big names behind them so I’m confident that even if things go south they’d be bought up by one of them rather than disappear completely


Got an interesting notification this morning:


Obviously won’t be investing.

I’ve been pre-registered for a while. Might chuck £50 at it. With big names having invested the worst that can happen I think is they’ll be bough up by someone at a lower share price

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How would they genuinely replace addresses in the real world though? Imagine being a postie trying to deliver your new route of addresses.

Instead of…

  • 2 Long Street Avenue,
  • 4 Long Street Avenue.
  • 6, 8, 10… then the odd houses etc…

That becomes…


I can see the point about rural locations where this helps pin point a bit better - but I can’t see a world where this replaces postal addresses, only perhaps complements them.

You solve one type of address related problem, but then break another. Because I think W3W is only really information that flows in One direction - i.e. you can’t infer a W3W location from looking at the houses around you, where as postal address conventions you can.


It wouldn’t help a postie since they have rounds based on streets in a particular order. That’s why normal addresses are so effective.

This system (if it was an open one) could be beneficial for parcel delivery that’s as hoc. But plus codes are equally effective for the exact same use case and they are also open.


I agree. W3W complements existing PAF but doesn’t replace it. PAF can be easily understood by humans as a location whereas W3W can’t. But (with the tools to decode it) it can helpfully pinpoint a very specific location. Useful in rural areas.


I think this a good place to leave this tweet:


I’ve been reading this thread with increasing incredulity. Thanks for giving me a laugh. You win the Internet and we should close the thread right here.

Just saw a W3W advert on channel 4 during Guy Martin. Said 80% of emergency services use it

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You beat me to it! I never normally watch TV but was over with family and saw the same advert.

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I noticed this Ad on Facebook this evening, I think if this is how they’re funding it and keeping it free for Emergency Services to use, I don’t think I have a problem with it really.