”Geocaching” is not in the dictionary. Unlike “bookcrossing”, which is often referred to as the phenomenon of placing books in public places with the purpose of others finding them. Odd, one might think, since bookcrossing is more tied to one company and one website than geocaching is. Because the truth is that Groundspeak, the owners of geocaching.com, don’t own any rights to the term. They tried to obtain it many years ago, but failed.
This allows for a broadening of geocaching as a term – and perhaps the change has already happened?
Is it geocaching if there’s no container?
Geocaching without a physical container is called “waymarking”. But in the commercial world only geocaching exists.
When diving into the world of commercial geocaching, where private companies, national parks and other players use geocaching for commercial gain, it is discovered that “geocaching” in its strict meaning is used in the wrong way. It has become the common term for all GPS-based games rather than only for that of finding a container with a logbook in it. No physical container has to exist and those of us who do geocaching “for real” don’t see any icons on our digital maps.
To geocache can today mean, for example, that you buy an experience where you visit sights using a pre-loaded GPS and read about the places you visit in a printed brochure. There are no containers. And perhaps this isn’t so odd, since the best part of traditional geocaching is the locations you visit and how you get there, not what you actually find.
At the same time it should be mentioned that there are many commercial projects that combine this type of geocaching with our original version. The containers are placed like we’re used to and registered online, but newcomers can rent GPS:es and search for the treasures without ever setting foot on geocaching.com or any other such website. These pure geocaching projects have taken a commercial step. The question is if this is a desired development among the “traditional” performers of geocaching. Should geocaching be restricted to a more narrow definition or be allowed to evolve?
It started with a misunderstanding
Whatever the case there’s no doubt that changes of the meaning of the term “geocaching” are happening. Or have happened already. What the reason for it is can be hard to pinpoint, but a guess is that it all started with a misunderstanding. Private companies heard of geocaching where you search for “treasures” using a GPS and had the idea of adopting it on their own business model. To them, it is then natural to call their own project “geocaching”, no matter what the project looks like.
And with time the changes are becoming more commonly used, continuing the trend. The next company sees the project of his competitor and adopts his own version, and soon they too can offer “geocaching” to their customers.
Perhaps private and commercial geocaching should have separate definitions? But where do we then draw the line? There is, though, a common denominator for all things geocaching: the GPS. This is the core of all related activities.
Can split definitions become a problem? Perhaps. Because waymarking still does exist, which according to the new definition is simply a form of geocaching and according to the old one is a phenomenon in itself. On the other hand, the two coexist today, so why would it present a problem in the future?
In all honesty, few seem to have reacted to or even care about the change. Who knows what it may bring in the long term, but most likely geocaching will be accepted as a form of experience, wildlife and game with GPS in the center. The treasure hunt will in the future only be a small part of all that geocaching includes, even if the hunt is what created the term in the first place.
A welcomed change
I would like to finish off by making one thing clear: I welcome the change. That geocaching is getting a wider definition is fun wince it would mean that it was the start of even more creative concepts. Both playful ones (based on experience) and health ones (based on recreation and health). And that’s a positive development.
Only one question remains: when will the dictionaries embrace geocaching and see the development? It is, after all, already an old activity.