In the States, yesterday was Memorial Day. It’s a day we spend remembering men and women who have given of their lives, times, and talents to fight for our Freedom and Liberties. It’s also a time where we honor our departed loved ones by visiting and decorating graves. In my family, it’s an annual tradition to gather at Grandma’s house, then trek to three cemeteries, cleaning headstones, placing flowers, remembering all the good times had together, and forging new memories as well. Memorial Day also represents a three-day weekend in which a great many people head to the hills with boats or four-wheelers in-tow. What do both of these activities have in common? Driving.
This year our family trek began on Saturday morning, spanned three vehicles, included more than a dozen people, and crossed the Android/iOS divide. All together we had about five hours of driving, round-trip, with an even spread of Android-powered to iOS-powered smartphones on three carriers. That’s a lot of driving, a lot of potential for miscommunication, and a lot of potential for unexpected hazards. Luckily we had an intelligent, cross-platform app along for the ride: Waze.
Waze is a crowd-sourced, socially connected navigation app. Maps are “built” by people actually driving on the roads, not by civil engineers sitting behind the soft glow of a computer screen, or a satellite buzzing a hundred miles overhead. Instead, Waze harnesses the power of everyone who’s using it to help improve its maps. New roads show up almost as soon as they’re paved. Closed roads and detours show up in real-time. Hazards, such as road construction, severe weather, objects on the road, and even police traps show up along your route — and you can even add your own while you’re driving to help warn those who are on the road behind you. If all that sounds like a lot of work, it can be, but Waze also works passively. Just by having Waze open, you’re helping to notify the network of the conditions on the road. If traffic suddenly grinds to a halt, Waze knows, and dynamically re-routes everyone around the problem regardless of what the problem is.
Waze is Social — That’s a Killer Feature
When I log into Waze I use my Facebook credentials. I could also use Twitter or Foursquare to log-in. Doing so not only let’s me see my friends when they’re near-by, Waze can also share when I’ve arrived at a destination — or not, however you’ve got it set up. One really cool feature is the ability for friends that are navigating to the same location to see where everyone else is, and know how soon they’re going to arrive at the destination. No more worrying about caravanning and keeping everyone in the rear-view to make sure no one gets lost!
Waze is Free — That’s a Problem
How much does this marvelous app cost? $1,000? No! $100? Not even close! Three easy installments of just $19.95? Nope! Waze is totally free. And that’s a problem.
Waze doesn’t sell its app. It gives the app away. It’s available free for Android and iOS, and is in beta testing for Windows Phone, too. The Waze website even lists support for BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows Mobile.
How does Waze make money? First of all, some think that Waze sells their real-time traffic information to other navigation providers. This, according to Waze, is untrue. Instead, Waze uses in-app advertisements, and displays location-based promotions to people who use the app. I wish there was a “paid” version without ads Although relatively unobtrusive, I want to see information that’s relative to me, not information that someone has paid Waze to show me.
The Future of Waze
Recently, it’s become public knowledge that Waze is entertaining offers to be acquired by Facebook and is asking for One Billion Dollars. Apparently Google isn’t too happy with one of its biggest rivals in the social sphere also becoming a competitor in the maps and navigation game, so it is getting involved, too.
Here’s the long and short of it. If either Facebook or Google buys Waze, I’m done. That’s right, I’ll close my account and remove the Waze app from my smartphone the day the deal is sealed. Some of the biggest features of using Waze will undoubtedly go away if Google acquires the company. Facebook, on the other hand, would now be trying to become my address book, my instant messenger, my SMS client, my social wall, and my navigation platform. I’m sorry, that’s too much information for one company to have.
Waze, if you’re reading this, I doubt that I’m alone. Others will join me in the “day of uninstallation”. A new company with a new app will rise, and we will all gladly throw our support behind it, just as we supported you.
Please, don’t make us uninstall you.