But today comes the news that Waze, the Israeli map app company, will be actually be snapped up by Google, in a deal that Bloomberg BusinessWeek says is worth a whopping $1.1 billion. In a post on the Google blog, mapping exec Brian McClendon confirmed the acquisition and said that Waze would be used to help increase the quality and depth of Google Maps.
"The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now," Mr. McClendon wrote. "We’re excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities."
So hey, what does Google want with Waze? And what is Waze, anyway? We'll answer the second question first: Waze is a mapping application powered both by GPS and by crowd-input. Other users can warn of particularly brutal traffic jams, or suggest better routes, or take note of a closed gas station, and that information will pop up on your screen for other users.
"This 'social' component differentiates Waze from the leading mobile-map apps, which happen to come from Google and Apple," writes Sam Gustin of Time. "For this reason, Google’s interest in the company is, in part, defensive. Often, when tech juggernauts like Google, Apple and Facebook encounter a start-up that has developed a product that poses a threat, the easiest solution is to simply buy it and remove the competition."
But we also believe what McClendon said above – that Google believes Waze can strengthen the Google Maps ecosystem. As early as 2007, Google was allowing users to experiment with map creation and the creation of profiles and recommendations that would appear on Google Maps itself. But Waze would bring the social side of Maps to a whole new level, a pretty attractive possibility for users.
And not to get too paranoid about it, but it a pretty attractive possibility for advertisers, too. After all, Google is all about leveraging user input for advertiser gain, from simple search phrases to Google+ wall posts – and soon, to locations entered on its mapping software.
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