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Mapping The World – In Just Three Words

Mapping the world – in just three words

Imagine you’re at a music festival, trying to describe where your tent is in a sea of canvas. Or you live in a remote part of the Middle East, and want to ensure your online delivery arrives despite having no street address.

Do you describe its location in painstaking detail? Or perhaps give a map grid reference? Now there’s an easier way to pinpoint any location on the planet – using just three words.

Saying “lion.daring.race” is a lot easier than asking someone to remember GPS coordinates. At the same time, it describes your location to within three metres.

What3Words is the brainchild of Chris Sheldrick, Jack Waley-Cohen and Michael Dent. They say their mission is to revolutionise the world’s address systems. They’ve carved up the globe into almost 57 trillion squares, each measuring three metres squared, and assigned each one a unique, three-word address.

If you want to find the Lingo24 office in Edinburgh, you just look up baking.steps.added. While you’re in the city, you could drop by Edinburgh Castle at buck.ears.match.

The website and app is now available in multiple languages (with help from Lingo24!) and there are already tens of thousands of users around the world.

Chris came up with the idea while he was running a music event business in Italy. It’s as accurate as GPS co-ordinates in describing a location, but much more memorable.

People can also buy their own, unique one-word address (such as *Johnoffice) to make it even easier to find.

Making it available in multiple languages had been one of the challenges. Instead of one-to-one translations, they have separate lists of words for each language. Whether you’re using it in English, Arabic or Russian, all the addresses worldwide will be in your language.

They cut out any homophones to avoid confusion, while similar sounding locations are distributed around the world.  With a list of 25,000 to 40,000 words per language, there are more than enough to cover every location.

Chris said: “It’s most useful where the postal system is inaccurate. That’s why we thought it was important to get it in as many languages as possible. It’s much more usable in your own language. We’ve had people using it in over 100 countries so far.

“It’s particularly popular in Russia, and it’s already been used in Dubai by a courier company. There’s also been lots of interest from music festivals.”

There are a huge range of potential uses, from describing a hard-to-find address to calling emergency services for help if you’re stranded on the motorway.

With the number of users and languages growing rapidly, it could change the way we think about maps and addresses…

Hazel Mollison

Hazel Mollison edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Italian and German at Cambridge University, she worked as a journalist for five years with regional and national newspapers. She enjoys writing about languages, translation, online marketing, and helping small businesses explore new opportunities.

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