Sometimes it feels like Facebook is buying the Internet. The recent news that the social media giant is set to buy Waze, a social media based GPS navigation app, for an assumed 1.2 billion has many people raising eyebrows -- and asking, "What's Waze?" In short, it's a map app. Enter your destination and Waze will help you get there, offering social media interactions from other Waze users with warnings of accidents, police waiting to give you a ticket, construction, traffic and so on.
But... why do you need another map app?
You know, other than the whole Apple Maps was all melty at first and occasionally tells you to park your car and walk to your destination. That's why Google finally released their own maps app, right? And yes, Apple and Google maps work just fine(ish). Until you're driving down the highway and come to a complete stop. Then what?
The social aspect of Waze maps saved my family time and frustration in two specific instances -- both in ways that neither Google or Apple have (yet) offered.
Last year, on our last day of vacation in North Carolina, a disastrous storm moved through the country. The derecho storm knocked down a church in our city, demolished a house at the end of our block, and left our home with our power for nine days -- as well as much of Ohio and West Virginia for a length of time. A friend who was also vacationing in the Outer Banks mentioned that she was using Waze to avoid some of the traffic on the drive home.
I downloaded the app before we began the long trek home. In doing so, I learned that we needed to get gas before we left North Carolina because gas stations up the 77 corridor were, a) without power, b) running out of gas, or c) both. I also learned, as we pulled into our devastated city, which streets to avoid due to damage, cars tossed about, and general Mother Nature havoc.
Just yesterday, we started to head home after spending Mother's Day with my husband's family. Just after passing an exit, we came to a complete stop. My husband didn't miss a beat. "Check what Waze says." I opened the app, scrolled ahead on our route -- which was marked in red with signs of 10 MPH as the average speed -- until I found the source of the problem. Multiple reports of a "Serious Accident" 15 miles ahead, all reported two hours prior with mentions of "not letting any traffic pass," lead me to open the local news website. 70E was shut down due to the horrible accident. A quick look on Waze at a parallel route that many in the area use to avoid I-70 when traffic is bad showed that they were diverting traffic via that route -- and it was moving just as slowly.
We discussed a few routes, figuring we would be spending a little bit longer than usual in the car but much less than waiting in the traffic. My husband turned around shortly thereafter and we took the scenic route home, north and east and then south a bit until we hit the back road to our neighborhood. Without Waze, my cranky children would have driven us batty and our dog, waiting at home in her crate, might have floated away (as we had already pushed our time limit; oops).
Social media wins again. (And, honestly? I haven't downloaded Google's map app. Waze and Apple maps remain my only navigation apps since my recent app purge.)
What will the potential Facebook purchase mean? Well, that's hard to tell at this point. Melissa Tolentino of Silicon Angle shared three reasons why she thought Facebook would benefit from the purchase, including:
Waze is all about people providing real-time information regarding the places where they’re located. By using Waze’s technology, Facebook will surely have a much better idea of where people are, and this knowledge brings two obvious benefits – first, it’ll help it to deliver better targeted advertising based on user’s locations, and second, it’s just the kind of technology that’s likely to improve the accuracy of its soon-to-be-released Graph Search functionality, particularly when people’s queries relate to locations of businesses, people etc.
Personally? I'm less interested in how the acquisition benefits Facebook, which I could take or leave on any given day, and more interested into how the purchase benefits Waze. What will change on my Waze app? I can already connect with Facebook to keep track of fellow Facebook-to-Waze users -- not that I do. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Like many Instagram lovers raised a skeptical eyebrow over that purchase last year, I sit and wait -- with hopes that I don't need to find another detour.
What about you? Have a Waze story to tell?
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