(June 10, 2013 / JNS)
The idea of Israeli-developed Waze was great, the execution was excellent, the name was catchy, and the application worked. Fifty million drivers using the application are pleased, and now by acquiring Waze, Google will not just be getting a navigation application, but a social network with members all over the world. If Google navigates its use of Waze correctly, it will finally succeed in creating a social network to rival Facebook, unlike its failed previous attempts.
Waze’s big advantage as a social application is that its members receive updates not only from their friends, which are relatively small in numbers, but from all of the application’s users, whether they know each other or not. It is also not just Israeli drivers that are connected, but all drivers in the world that use Waze.
The path of the company’s founders was clear from the start. Former CEO and now President Uri Levine, whose profile we published on Jan. 28, 2009, believed from the get-go that his software would start a revolution not unlike Wikipedia. The formula is simple: A driving experience based on crowdsourcing, or “user-uploaded content,” which makes everyday and long-distance drives more efficient. The idea of receiving information from drivers’ phones, showed just how this kind of data sharing could happen in real-time.
Additional information layers have been added to the original traffic layer, like blocked roads (very useful thanks to this year’s rainy winter), police cars, traffic accidents, cars parked in a dangerous way on the street, where one can get discounts on gas stations, stores and in general: everything that numerous other applications tried to sell us we get here in one reliable, and easy-to-use system. The integration with Facebook allowed us to share information on our destinations with our friends, though caution should be taken in case our “friends” are not really friends, and are waiting for us to leave the house so they can rob it while we drive somewhere far away. But that option can be turned off, to play it safe.
Google can expand the data sharing to many other fields, as it will naturally make use of all the information at its disposal from its existing maps, Street View service and the rest of its information layers. As of now it seems Waze is headed toward becoming a global standard, a real source of pride for Israel.
Ilan Gattegno is a correspondent and columnist for Israel Hayom