When Google bought Waze, it wasn't just buying a startup -- it was also buying a highly engaged community of users willing to provide real-time traffic information.
And that community is key to Google's effort to stave off rival mapping apps, namely Apple Maps.
Google on Tuesday announced that iPhone and Android users of Google Maps would now begin seeing live traffic reports posted by Waze users. That means that when Waze users indicate construction, heavy traffic, or a car accident on the road, the report will show up on both the Waze and Google Maps apps.
That's great news for Google Maps users, who now have more real-time information to help them get to their destination more quickly. And it's bad news for Apple Maps and any other challengers to Google Maps.
Google Maps is already the leader in the field, but with the addition of the new Waze feature, Google is essentially transforming Google Maps from an online encyclopedia with static information into a navigation Wikipedia, where anyone with valuable knowledge can chime in. Via Waze, anyone can provide Google Maps with instant information about what they're seeing on the road.
When Google bought Waze in June, the app had 50 million users -- many of whom are constantly on the app not only to get directions but also to report things they come across as they drive. Besides traffic, construction and accidents, Waze users can also warn others about stalled cars, speed traps, objects on the road and more.
Until now, Google Maps, like other apps, has provided users with information from incident reports courtesy of traffic reporting services. Apple Maps, for example, shows users when and where there is traffic, but the amount of data found on Apple's service pales in comparison to what drivers can see when using Waze.
And Apple helped put itself in this unfortunate situation.
Although Waze has been around for years, it really gained prominence last September, when Apple released iOS 6 and replaced Google Maps as its default navigation app with Apple Maps. As you may recall, Apple Maps was received terribly and the company ended up apologizing for the app and recommending rival services. Among them was Waze.
Google Maps didn't make its way back onto the iPhone until December, so for nearly three months, Waze was able to reel in iPhone users -- adding to the community that will now be sending information to Google Maps.
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