The Likeways app, say its creators, offers a novel approach towards wayfinding. If you want a direct route between A and B, try Googlemaps or Waze. But if you’re in the mood to meander and you’d rather be directed via a few interesting places, download Likeways (iOS only) and give it a spin.  It’s less about geography and more about psychogeography.

It was developed by Austrian Martin Traunmueller, a PhD candidate at University College London’s Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities. According to CityLab, Likeways reclaims urban walking from the realm of necessary drudgery and frames it as an enjoyable activity in and of itself. Traunmueller’s own wandering through London led him to what his now his favorite coffee shop; in much the same way, he discovered a secret garden in the backyard of an old factory building in London’s tech hub of Shoreditch. With his app, you can do the same.

How does Likeways work?

LikewaysWhat makes a place interesting to Likeways is its social media presence. The number of Facebook likes it has indicates its popularity, which in turn prompts the app to include it in the route it generates. The more the route gets pulled towards it, the more likely it is that you’ll discover a snug coffee shop or a stylish boutique you never knew existed on an aimless Saturday afternoon drift around the town.

This example map (right) shows two route options – in grey the shortest route and in blue the Likeway, leading through areas with high density of interesting venues.  Feel free to meander at your own speed.

Of course, drifting is not just about coffee shops. Interesting and unexpected features are much more important to the serious psychogeographer. The success of Likeways will lie in the kinds of Facebook pages it taps into, and they in turn are driven by what we choose to post and value.

Let’s hope it grows into a maze of intriguing landmarks.