Google, Facebook vying for Waze?

The rumor du jour on the Interwebs is that Google may be interested in buying Waze, the crowd-sourced traffic information app for smartphones, following earlier reports that Facebook was in talks over a possible $1 billion bid for the service.

Nobody’s saying anything, officially, as is typical with these kinds of things. But the Bloomberg news service is citing the usual “people familiar with the matter” as saying that Google is mulling a bid for Palo Alto-based Waze, which started in Israel and moved to Silicon Valley a few years back.

The report is intriguing because it raises the prospect of a high-dollar bidding war between two Internet giants, Facebook and Google.  There was also speculation earlier this year that Apple might be interested in Waze, although nothing materialized there and Bloomberg says Apple’s not currently in any talks.

It’s also of deep interest to the many loyal fans of Waze, which says it has more than 40 million users who like the idea of sharing information on traffic conditions to help each other get where they need to go.  The Merc’s Pete Carey tried the service back in 2011 and wrote that the Waze app makes driving in heavy traffic “almost fun.”

Google is currently the leader in online mapping services.  And it’s already adding real-time traffic information to the Google maps service for mobile devices, according to officials who spoke at the company’s big I/O software conference this month.  Facebook, meanwhile, wants to offer more mobile services so smartphone owners have no reason to go outside the Facebook ecosystem.

Over at Search Engine Land, analyst/blogger Greg Sterling writes that Google “needs Waze the least” of all the rumored buyers.  While Google might incorporate Waze features into Maps, he adds, “Waze the brand would probably disappear.” It’s not clear what would mean to the loyal Waze community.

While some observers suggest these rumors may be coming from people interested in driving up the price of a potential deal, the outcome remains to be seen.


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