Is Waze doomed to merge with Google Maps?

Historically separate from Google Maps teams, Tel Aviv-based Waze employees will eventually join Google’s map service. The beginning of the end for a popular application that has always been able to function independently?

In the emerging technology sector, Waze is a UFO. Used by more than 150 million people every month (including at least 13 million French people), the map application preferred by motorists is built entirely by its users, as it is a fully collaborative service. Waze teams don’t build the maps, it’s passionate communities that typically spend several hours a day on Waze that drive awareness of the app. Oddly enough, Google’s acquisition of Waze in 2013 didn’t scare away the service’s fans, who continue to feed it daily.

In 2019, during a meeting with some journalists in Tel Aviv (we attended), Waze representatives promised that the application would remain independent of Google and Google Maps. Three years later, the Wall Street Journal reveals that the promise has been broken. On Friday, December 9, Google is merging the teams of its two mapping applications.

Google Maps and Waze, two incompatible models?

Normally, a merger of two map services belonging to the same group would seem logical. Why do everything twice when their missions are the same? In this particular case, the merger presents several problems.

By its function, Waze is completely incompatible with Google Maps. The Israeli application is based on the passion of its partners and the reports of its users, while Google Maps is a juggernaut with a colossal budget, employing thousands of people responsible for mapping the planet and collecting as much data as possible (l incredible Street The View project testifies to this). Can we merge this data without risk? Waze would then lose its entire identity, while Google would not gain much (the Google Maps teams already have access to reports from Waze users).

Waze in Android Auto. // Source: Waze

Neha Parikh, CEO of Waze, who succeeded Noah Bardim (the historical head of the application) in 2021, is the first victim of this merger. Google promises that no other employees will be laid off and that the two applications remain independent, but the departure of its boss is not a very good sign. Noah Bardim, when he left, was very critical of Google, which he blamed for destroying Waze’s startup culture.

Even if Waze were to remain in Tel Aviv despite this merger, its room to maneuver seems more limited than ever. Will Google gradually absorb Waze or try to monetize it at all costs? (Waze barely makes any money today, Google has always seen it as an experiment). The end of its independence suggests that the Waze founded in 2008 no longer exists, and no one knows what the Waze of 2023 will look like.

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