Breaking news: Google has just beaten off competition from Apple and Facebook to acquire Waze. Ok that’s not even the news. The news is that they paid a whopping $1.1 billion. For a map application? When Google has Google Maps already? You must be wondering what Google was thinking. Or maybe how valuable they feel Waze is.
So what does Waze do?
Crowdsourcing is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. Wikipedia
Crowdsourced data from Waze, driver-created mapping, community curation and citizen traffic reports adds an interactive element to the user experience which not only quickly becomes addicting, but tends to be more accurate thanks to is obsessive (and often geeky) reporters chronicling in realtime. This, along with enabling drivers to tap into social layers, view realtime fuel prices, nearby gas stations, points of interest and use hands-free navigation that adjusts to your route, has made it a popular alternative to native mapping apps. And the bigger it gets and the more data it sucks in, the more effective it becomes. Techcrunch
But why Waze?
Now if Google already has Google Maps, why then did Larry still spend so much money buying a seemingly similar app? Look again at what Techcrunch has to say about this
Google itself has begun to leverage that data to offer custom, personalized maps for its users — something that’s fundamental to the social, customizable experience Waze has sought to create. But, generally speaking, when it comes to realtime navigation, adjusting to the driver’s route as it goes, Google still feels more pre-programmed. Yes, it has improved in the newest version of Google Maps, but while it has colored traffic layers to show users degrees of traffic, it doesn’t seem on par with Waze’s in-route, constantly-updated traffic info. And it often doesn’t offer the same number of potential routes as Waze when a driver is, say, looking to avoid traffic.
In my opinion, I would say, Waze has close to 50 million users, almost ten dozen employees, enough manpower to handle whatever future challenge that may arise in the mapping society, and moreover, there aren’t many contributors in the market today. So YES Waze is the best bet now.
See Mashable’s expert opinion
There aren’t that many mapping software companies. Waze didn’t have any real competitors.Mapping is hard to do, and moreover many startups are petrified of competing with Google on the mapping sphere.
Google hasn’t been great at cultivating a social network. The search giant has claimed as many as 500 million people are on Google Plus, but no one in the real world discussed Plus in the same breath as Facebook and Twitter. Waze’s active community provides a social layer on mobile, which is doubly attractive.
Maps are super important. Forrester’s Ask says mapping software is right up there with email and a browser in terms of functionality. This didn’t used to be the case, but users have been spoiled by Google’s excellent Maps — and have grown to rely on them.
It was a defensive move. Apple famously bungled its Maps app, but Facebook is way behind Apple with regard to mapping software. Depriving Facebook of good mapping software would allow Google to keep and bolster its lead ahead of others.
Now in Nigeria…
In my lovely land, Nigeria, the most celebrated and arguably the most popular twitter crowdsourced Waze-like communities are @Gidi-Traffic and @trafficbutter. traffix.com.ng says they are working on an algorithm that could verify crowdsourced data, but I still await that. But what lessons does this Google buyout teach us?
There is always room for improvement. ALWAYS.
Gidi_traffic has so far done a great job, releasing an app for the Asha platform. Trafficbutter has also partnered with Vehicle Security outfit RheyTrack. But they seem to have stopped there. We can do more. I’m wondering why there are none of such on the Android and iOS platforms. Africa has even more potential than many other countries. We can develop algorithms that can perform better, not just at traffic update verification (like traffixNG says they are working on), but at social networking most importantly.
The people are ALWAYS important.
I remember suggesting sometime ago with my twitter handle @kcemenike to @Gidi_Traffic that there could be little improvements to the Traffic family by acknowledging the best contributors, but so far nothing has happened. Make the people that contribute to your success feel important, not just by retweeting, but if possible, award virtual points for job well done, probably based on user thanks or votes. The reason why 2go is so successful in Nigeria (and invariably in Africa) today is that they leveraged strongly on the psychological drive of the mind towards acknowledgment – by providing points for chatting.
To conclude, I strongly feel that if only we apply a little more effort, we could make it the hall of fame.
What are your thoughts? Please feel free to leave your comments here