We chose to use sequences of words as the basis of our system because the only alternative would have been to use long sequences of letters and/or numbers to cover the world uniquely, with high precision. Numeric and alphanumeric codes of this nature are in use today but rarely used in day to day life by the general population, with complexity often cited as a key barrier to mass adoption. By using dictionary words, we were able to cover the entire world using a sequence of just 3 words, which is far more usable and memorable than a long code. Words are great for this purpose because people know so many, but using words brings subjectivity around their suitability for inclusion.

When we choose the words to use in each language, we aim to remove rude and offensive words. Our processes on this have improved over time; we now have a dedicated team of 5 linguists who work closely with teams of native speakers and linguists on our new language versions, who help us navigate a wide range of cultural sensitivities. We appreciate there are some words in our lists that you may feel are an unsuitable choice. We continue to consider the feedback we receive whilst being cognisant that one of what3words’ most important features is its fixed nature and corresponding offline support. This means it is not possible to update the word list based on user feedback, but we remain open-minded as to how we might be able to use the feedback we receive. If you’d rather avoid a certain what3words address because of a particular word or combination of words, we’d suggest you use the next square along.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the words are shuffled by our algorithm and not assigned manually, and they are specifically not intended to convey any meaning to a location.

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