Waze is a mapping app for smartphones that’s infused with cool social features.
For example, users can tap an icon to alert other users that they saw a highway patrol, looking for speeders.
There have already been several reports that Facebook wants to buy Waze for a price north of $1 billion.
The reason: Facebook wants Waze to move its operations to California. Waze’s cofounders do not.
When Facebook’s bid became public earlier this month, All Things D’s Ina Fried said the deal put Facebook on a “collision course” with Google.
Buying crowdsourced mapping program Waze would do more than just give Facebook another service to offer mobile users of its social network.
Adding mapping and traffic capabilities could also help the company continue to distinguish itself and take important consumer features in mobile away from Google.
Most recently, Facebook has been all smiles when it comes to its relationship with Google and its Android mobile operating system, despite many years of significant tensions between them over a range of important issues that all essentially boil down to controlling the consumer experience on the Web.
In its recent phone effort, Facebook Home, the social networking giant is building on top of Android, adhering to the rules that Google imposes on those third parties that want to use its services. Google makes Android freely available to device makers. Those that don’t want any Google services can do pretty much whatever they want, but if you want Gmail or the Play Store you have to play by Google’s rules, which include taking the full suite of Google services.
That creates, for many companies, a marriage of convenience that requires device makers and software companies in the phone business to install even Google services that rival their own.
But, acquiring a popular mapping product — one popular enough to have attracted Google’s interest in the past — could give Facebook some leverage against the search giant.
Earlier this month, we spoke to three industry sources and asked them why Facebook would want to buy Waze.
They gave us three reasons:
- Waze will improve Facebook’s local search, which is an increasingly important — and monetizable — application on mobile.
- Facebook believes maps are a core mobile application that it needs to own, even on Google devices. Waze can help it make social mapping software that users will prefer over Google Maps.
- Owning Waze gives Facebook more mobile usage, and might even make its core product, the News Feed, more robust.
For its part, Google has plenty of reason to buy Waze. For one, it would make Google Maps an even more robust and therefore popular product. For another, it would keep it out of Facebook hands.
Microsoft is an investor in Waze, but so far it hasn’t been mentioned as a possible bidder.
Bloomberg says Apple is not talking to Waze about a deal.
Bloomberg says Waze is considering taking an additional round of investment rather than selling.
The real winner here?
Waze, which suddenly has two mega-rich, competive Silicon Valley tech firms bidding against each other to buy it.