When the social mapping and navigation app Waze hit 5 million users in July 2011, Application Magazine editors got excited. Jump ahead nearly four years and the (now) Google-owned Waze has way more than 10 times the users. And, the more people who become part of the Waze craze, the better the app gets for everyone.
This is because Waze relies on drivers to report accidents, stalled vehicles, heavy traffic, police and more to not only alert users on these conditions but also provide a better way to get from point A to point B. Waze (available on iOS, Android and Windows) combines this data and its navigation interface to “outsmart” traffic, leading drivers to take paths they may never have considered in the past. This idea, however, is not without controversy. In heavy Waze-use areas, like Los Angeles, home owners are upset that their neighborhoods are becoming shortcuts for Waze drivers looking to get where they are going faster – causing congestion on their once-quiet streets (they may want to consider downloading Waze).
This small bump in the road isn’t slowing down Waze, which relies on some basic app best practices. If app makers have learned anything, it’s that users will do just about anything to earn points (a nod to Waze’s built-in gamification features) and that social sells. With Waze, users can share their ETA with family and friends, as well as add Facebook friends and sync contacts so that their social circle knows where they are going and when exactly Waze has them getting there. The one question many privacy-sensitive users may be asking, however, is what is Google doing with all that data? Users would be naive to think their whereabouts, contacts and participation won’t be used somehow under the guise of improving the experience for end-users and advertisers.
Speaking of, since the last time Application Magazine wrote about Waze, the app has come a long way in getting businesses involved. Local merchants can now easily take advantage of Waze’s ready-made audience of nearby consumers by simply getting their business listed; the fee schedule is on a per-impression basis.