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Why Google and Facebook are fighting over Waze?
Last week rumors went around about Waze that might be acquired for $1 billion. Two online giants, namely Facebook and Google have been reported to be willing to put that much on the table to take hold of the social navigation app. Before that, earlier this year, Apple developed an interest in the same app and was willing to acquire it too.
What is it that Waze has to offer that the big giant want?
Waze is an app that runs on iOS device with more than 40 million users. It was founded by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine in 2007 and headquartered in Israel. With Noam Bardin as the CEO, the company has grown to the point where it was able to raise $67 million from investors.
On the first look, the app doesn’t seem to offer anything different from what Apple or Google map has to offer. Waze basically lays out direction on a street grid for drivers. The voice navigation feature is available. The social aspect of this app is what makes a huge difference. Aside providing directions, users driving have the power to scan real-time traffic information as it is provided by other drivers using the app on the same road.
As an example, let’s say you are on the same road with another driver that is a few miles ahead of you. He can report of any accident on the app and how it has affected circulation so that all other drivers that intended to pass through that road may prepare in advance or even choose a different path accordingly. In another scenario, you will get to know if there are policemen hiding around the bend before even getting there. This app basically allows you to anticipate in advance what else to expect on the road aside from just giving you the directions.
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The way Waze works is by giving point to users that are willing to share useful information on it. Those points can be compared to other users and that gives the software a game element. The driver is notified with a sound whenever Waze feels there is a milestone hit.
There are risks involved with this though. It can be quite distracting. Instead of focusing on the road, one may be more interested in sharing information on the app. As a safety mechanism the app requires the user to pull over before he can be enabled to type his destination. For those who want some privacy and prefer their Facebook friends not to know where they are heading to, they can make themselves invisible. The option to turn off the sound is also available.
The bottom line is this app offers more than just directions. The trend is that the online world is going social and any app or website that want to be part of it has to have a way to integrate social or it will be washed away. Google and Facebook know that. Facebook is an important social network but does not really offer any map while Google may have a map without any real social integration to it. The 2 giants know that Waze may turn out to be a real game changer and they are willing to pay the price for it.