All about Waze: Why Google or Facebook might want it

Speculation has started again about whether the social mapping app Waze will get snapped up by a high-profile suitor.

The rumor mill is focused on a reported bid from Google, which Bloomberg wrote may be competing with a similar bid from Facebook. This comes a few months after rumors that Apple was also interested in the company.

A Waze spokeswoman declined to comment on rumor or speculation.

TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas reported Friday that unnamed sources have cast doubt on a Google acquisition bid. But what is it about Waze that could make it so attractive to such tech heavyweights?

It’s the mapping and traffic app’s social sauce — which helps users track traffic patterns -- that distinguishes it from other navigation programs. “Wazers” can report their current traffic conditions so that others on the route will know whether there’s smooth sailing ahead or an irritating bottleneck. The app also provides information on gas prices, local ATMs and places to grab a bite to eat.

For Google, which is building more social information into its new Maps product, and Facebook, which is looking to make its social data more mobile and more user-friendly, Waze already offers technology that marries the two.

Waze, with about 47 million users, already has a strong social community. It was named the “Best Connected Product” at the 2013 Webby Awards, and the company even got a boost when Apple chief executive Tim Cook mentioned it as a strong maps program in his apology to users after releasing the much-maligned Apple Maps.

Waze is also seeing tremendous growth. According to the company, the app added 3.6 million users in March alone. Around 37 percent of the total user base is considered “active” — a.k.a. people who use the app regularly — and the company says those users spend 440 minutes per month in the app.

It’s the kind of engagement that could look very attractive to companies bent on improving their mapping technology and making real-time social information part of their users’ everyday commutes.

(The Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Related stories:

Google I/O: Google Maps gets a whole new look

Apple eyeing Waze traffic app? What that could mean for Apple Maps

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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