W3W business plan

Latest spam (always spam isn't it? It was spam that started the investigation in to w3w.me.ss for example).

"I am getting in touch to see if you have thought about accepting a what3words address from customers to help couriers find an exact location for delivery."

I seriously do not understand the business plan here!

This is targeting businesses that themselves use couriers. Not targeting couriers.


There are so many examples of close clashes

Couriers already have a long standing and well tested system for delivering to an "addresses". Royal Mail have a whole system of "postcodes" dating back to the '60s. These days there are "delivery points" with a DPS (Delivery Point Suffix) even. Couriers pay Royal Mail for access to the PAF (Postal Address File) which has all the data you could need, including, if you want, a grid references for the delivery point which can be down to 0.1m x 0.1m accuracy (AFAIK). It works, and they already pay for this.

This means that even selling W3W to couriers makes no real sense. They have a system. W3W cannot replace that system, and is not better. One key point is PAF updates. If an address changes, or even if a delivery point (e.g. the post room door in a large company) moves or was wrong, they can update that with no change to the "Address" used. This is spectacularly not the case with W3W.

I mean, if a courier takes W3W, is it:-

  • The same as PAF, so why?
  • Different, PAF is wrong, the W3W is actual delivery point - so update PAF?
  • Different, some outbuilding, so when courier does not deliver to "northwest corner of garden" they are berated for wrong delivery?
  • Way off, so where do they send the driver?

But this email is to a company that "uses couriers". So what the hell would they be "selling" to such a company? Whatever it is it only works if the courier we use "accepts" W3W as part of the delivery address somehow (I think they have convinced one courier to do that).

We use couriers, including Royal Mail. Now imagine if W3W convinced a courier we use to take a W3W address.

What is W3W *selling* us? The ability to "accept W3W address from customers". Well, I hate to say it but that ability comes with <input name=w3waddress placeholder="W3W address"> in a form, and we then feed in to the API or label to the courier. We don't need to *pay* W3W for that in any way, do we?

I mean they have a database right and copyright on the wordlist, and patent (questionable) on the algorithm, but they have no rights over individual W3W addresses, e.g. no copyright, just like Royal Mail have no right to individual "postal addresses", only their "database". We could "accept W3W address" from customers, and feed to "couriers" at zero cost. Indeed, if we had a courier which accepted W3W they would probably provide us with an address API which would check the real address and W3W address makes sense and reject, again at no cost to us.

So WTAF are they spamming companies?

Basically this is crazy... But...

  1. Please, if you get this, troll them and ask how it is better than PAF?
  2. Please, if you get this, and their plan really is to just use you (for free) to promote W3W as you "accept W3W addresses", ask how much they pay you per click on your web site and ordering for doing so.


  1. Mis clicked "delete", sorry.
    "Presumably it’s just free advertising on every company’s site that asks for a W3W"
    Yes, that may be it.

  2. Amazon drivers seem to have trouble finding addresses and are constantly phoning to ask "where are you?" Do Amazon use PAF and the Delivery Point grid references?

    1. I can look it up if you like and confirm what PAF says for you.

    2. IIRC, when we moved into a new build (the first house sold on the new road), Amazon were the fastest company to update their post code records- even Royal Mail themselves weren't that quick to update their routes!

  3. Maybe they're trying to "do an Uber": Undercut the incumbants until the incumbants go bust then ratchet up the charges on their API and win.

    I'll let the audience make up their own minds about W3W's ability to put the Royal Mail/Post Office out of business.

  4. The problem is most delivery companies only use the center point of the post code as the physical location for a delivery point. I do believe the PAF publishes per delivery point lat/long, but that extract costs more and isn't used by easily available GPS systems.

    In Rural area a single post code can cover quite a lot of ground. For instance the center of my former office's post code was down a different access round, than our office was. Creating regular mis-deliveries

    1. I don't run a delivery company so cannot say if that is true or not, but it seems surprising any delivery company delivering in the UK would not pay for PAF location data. However, assuming you are right, would they really pay for W3W?

      As for "isn't used by easily available GPS", that makes no sense! For a start, if (as you say) it is provided as lat/lon, that is absolutely used by every GPS system. In fact it is provided as UK UTM Grid Easting/Northing, which again GPS systems can use - but can be converted to GPS lat/lon, or whatever format needed, for the GPS system being used, obviously. So a non argument.

      And let's not forget - they do not just have a postcode, they have a road name, and house name or number, and contact phone number, and probably some local knowledge of the delivery driver, and the simple measure of asking senders to add "delivery notes, where applicable" would work without paying W3W or integrating some system, as would calling the contact number if lost (which is what they do!).

    2. Even in urban areas, postcodes can cover large areas. I once worked with a customer where navigating to their post code would take you to a field 20 minutes drive away. This was eventually solved by requesting RM to change their postcode to match a new development next door.

    3. Well yes, but again, you are never just using a postcode. You have a whole address, contact number, and any notes added by the sender.

  5. W3W is a particularly bad encoding scheme, because it's closed and proprietary, but _all_ of these schemes (Maidenhead Locator, mapcode, geohash, pluscode/OLC, doubtless others…) reduce to lat/long. Every GPS receiving device starts from a lat/long, and every one I've used can display those numbers, before they then go on to whatever encoding system the manufacturer favoured.

    I argue that the real problem, therefore, is not "W3W is bad" but "the emergency services, AA, RAC, etc., are unable to take a raw lat/long, for unknown but doubtless very stupid reasons".

  6. https://www.theregister.com/2023/09/01/what3words_geolocation_criticism/?td=rt-3a

    What happens when What3Words gets lost in translation?

    UK emergency services organizations urged to consider alternatives


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