A Whirl Round Waze

Waze, the crowd sourced traffic-mapping and navigation company, was recently acquired for $1.3bn by Google after a supposed bidding war with Facebook. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has actually begun investigating this acquisition after demands from consumer groups concerned that Google’s takeover of the company could corner the online mapping market.

So what is all this fuss about Waze?

The Waze website states that it is ‘the world’s fastest-growing community-based traffic and navigation app’ with 30 million drivers out on the roads. The iTunes app claims it is 50 million strong. Either way, quite a few people seem to like it!
Waze aims to be more than just an app. Not only do drivers supposedly share updates on police, accidents, road hazards or traffic jams in real time but you can link up with your friends – allowing you be ‘effortlessly in sync when you drive together’. The social integration is interesting – particularly with Facebook – where alongside sharing your driving details you have the option to select your Facebook Events location for routing purposes! For an app which relies on its user’s participation this integration is vital!

The app encourages participation through its cleverly gamified scoreboard – all users start as a “Waze Baby” for their first 100 miles before progressing to a “Waze Grownup” which allows them to pick a custom mood for their Waze. Active participation gives you the opportunity to rise all the way to the top and become “Waze Royalty” and drive around with a crown!
Unlike other online maps, such as Google Maps, Waze doesn’t yet offer any other routing options past driving. However, it does have an easy routing option to the nearest (and cheapest!) “Gas” station – handy for when you’re running low on petrol and something I find frightfully lacking from the Google Maps app.

As a crowd sourcing app, Waze relies heavily on its user base to share updates and information. Once downloaded the app remains running on your phone – but how many of those 50 million users are in the UK? There aren’t any exact figures – but a quick open of Waze on my phone shows there are just over 600 Wazers, and 40 reports, in my local area. Now what my local area is I don’t know, but sitting as I am on the edge of London it seems a relatively low amount.

The concept behind Waze is brilliant. Real people working together to make their journeys easier and more enjoyable. However, I’m not convinced that in the UK Waze has hit the critical mass necessary to make it truly invaluable, both as an online map and as a social network. It may not be replacing Google Maps for me just yet – but Waze is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Do you use Waze? What do you think of it? Tweet us via @iftweeter!

Images courtesy of the official Waze website.

© Waze. Images.

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