Waze, a service that uses user's location data to generate both maps and traffic data, has been a hot commodity this year. Apple and Facebook started the bidding off with offers of $500 million and one billion dollars respectively. Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports that both offers have been beaten by the massive $1.3 billion Google has tossed on the bargaining table.
Waze has built an amazing application. Every successful map application needs a lot of user-generated data. For an example of what happens without it, only merely needs to look at a certain bitten fruits maps offering. Google maps uses user-generated data to catalog things like restaurants, road construction and quite a few other things. Waze takes user-generated data to the next level.
Waze has become massively popular (with 30 million users) because of the uniquely good collection of services they've built up. I can say from personal experience that no other mapping application really can touch Waze in a well populated area. They have accurate traffic reports that actually offer some detail of how slow things are really going and how soon they are likely to clear up. They encourage editing of maps and they are usually first to update their maps when changes happen. Heck they can tell you where the cheapest gas is.
It's clear Waze could help some of the bigger mapping companies with their applications. It especially made since for Apple or Facebook to take the service over, as Apple's mapping service is infamous for its many errors. Facebook doesn't have any sort of mapping service whatsoever and they are trying everything to stay relevant right now. So why didn't they take over before Google could step in? For Apple it seems to be, oddly enough, a matter of money. Waze apparently knew it was worth more than the half billion offered it and they were certainly right. Facebook was a little more on target in terms of money, $1 billion would get anybody's mind working, heck I'd settle for half a billion! Facebook had their hearts a little too set on taking the whole company on an exodus from Israel, something Waze wasn't overly keen on.
When it came right down to it the biggest obstacle for Facebook and Apple was Google. Google seems determined to keep their Maps app far above all competition. While Waze does have some cool features Google would like integrated in Google Maps, this acquisition is, at its heart, a defensive one. Google knows that Waze could build a real competitor if they teamed with Facebook or Apple. Google will do everything it can to keep that from happening. This explains their huge offer. An offer sweetened even further by the promise to keep Waze in Israel for at least three years.
While I generally support Google I will be sad to see Waze go. Make no mistake, Waze will no longer exist when the three-year promise is up. By then most of their good features will be integrated into Google Maps. They will be just another in a long line of start-ups purchased and digested into Google's vast array of services.
Waze users, do you look forward to seeing Waze' services integrated into Google Maps? Or are you saddened at the prospect of the potential ingestion of Waze? Let us know in the comments below and go join in the conversation on our Google+ page.