After widespread rumors that the two were close to a deal, Google has confirmed on its official blog that it is acquiring Waze, a real-time social map network based in Israel. The price wasn’t disclosed, but earlier reports speculated that the web giant was likely to pay as much as $1.3 billion for the company, and All Things Digital reported that a source confirmed the purchase price was $1 billion. Waze had also recently been in acquisition talks with Facebook.
The Google post said that the company is eager to work with the Waze community of users “who are the DNA of this app,” and to integrate the real-time traffic updates and other information that the network provides into Google Maps:
“We’ve all been there: stuck in traffic, frustrated that you chose the wrong route on the drive to work. But imagine if you could see real-time traffic updates from friends and fellow travelers ahead of you, calling out ‘fender bender…totally stuck in left lane!’ and showing faster routes that others are taking.”
This kind of integration is one of the reasons why many argued that Google should try hard to snatch the company out of Facebook’s hands (Apple was also at one point rumored to be interested in the company), since the addition of Waze’s real-time traffic info could make for a significant competitor to Google’s app.
Product team to remain in Israel
On the Waze blog, the company’s founders said that they agreed to the acquisition offer from Google because CEO Larry Page and the Google Maps team “share our vision of a global mapping service, updated in real time by local communities, and wish to help us accelerate.” The founders added:
“Nothing practical will change here at Waze. We will maintain our community, brand, service and organization [and] we will continue to innovate our product and services, making them more social, functional and helpful.”
Google’s blog post noted that the Waze product team would remain in Israel and operate separately “for now.” According to reports in the Israeli media, the issue of moving the company’s staffers to California was apparently a sticking point in the negotiations with Facebook, and a commitment to keep the company based in Israel may have made the difference for Google in the negotiations.
Waze, which has been growing rapidly, has a user base of about 50 million in 110 countries, who shared more than 90 million reports of traffic conditions, speed traps and other data on the network in 2012. The company has raised $67 million in venture financing from investors such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Li-Ka Shing and Blue Run Ventures.