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How Waze Unintentionally Helped Make Google Maps the Killer App That It Is Today

Waze is currently one of the most popular navigation apps on iPhone and Android, coming with a rather unique approach that others are trying to copy these days. It which relies on user power to help drivers avoid traffic jams, potholes, and overall to find a faster route to a specific destination.
Waze was acquired by Google in June 2013 1 photo
Former CEO Noam Bardin is one of those who contributed to the massive growth recorded by the app in the last years, and in a blog post published a few hours ago, nearly two weeks after he stepped down as the leader of the company, he provides us with a closer look at how Waze worked under Google’s umbrella.

While the entire post is worth a read, especially if you’re interested in corporate stuff and how a tech behemoth can absorb a successful startup, there’s one part that caught my attention and which I think answers quite a lot of questions regarding the similarities between Waze and Google Maps.

For many people out there, Google having two navigation apps (Waze and Google Maps) makes absolutely no sense, and there was a time when the rumor mill claimed the company just wanted to migrate all Waze features to Google Maps and then kill it off.

This didn’t actually happen (and there’s no sign it could happen anytime soon anyway), and Bardin explains in his post that one of the things he had to struggle with under Google ownership is how they managed to improve Waze.

We quickly learned, the hard way, that we could not get distribution from Google. Any idea we had was quickly co-opted by Google Maps. The Android app store treated us as a 3rd party, there was no pre-installation option and no additional distribution,” he said.

At some level, this makes sense, especially because Waze itself was seeking independence when being acquired by Google. However, this is living proof things aren’t working exactly as you’d expect them to work under the ownership of a tech giant and the product that brings home the bacon is always the priority.

We did have a lot more marketing dollars to spend but had to spend them like any other company, except we were constrained in what we could do and which 3rd parties we could work with due to corporate policies. All of our growth at Waze post acquisition was from work we did, not support from the mothership. Looking back, we could have probably grown faster and much more efficiently had we stayed independent,” Bardin continued.

At the end of the day, Waze will continue to be improved, but it’s pretty clear Google Maps is the priority for Google both now and in the long term. It’ll be interesting to see how the two will coexist in the future, especially now that Bardin is no longer with the company.


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