Google and Waze Start Mixing Their Maps for the First Time
Google today is introducing the first integrations between its homegrown Google Maps for mobile and its newly owned Waze.
The traffic tab on Google Maps for iOS and Android will now include accidents, construction, road closures and other incidents reported by Waze users. Meanwhile, the Waze app now supports Google search, and Waze map editors will have access to Google Street View and satellite imagery.
Google grabbing Waze for more than $1 billion in June kept the hot startup away from other suitors, but also landed the “more wood behind fewer arrows” advocates in Mountain View, Calif. with two map apps.
Given the substantial overlap between Google Maps and Waze, it’s interesting to see what the company does to bring them together and keep them distinct.
Adding Waze incident reports is the obvious choice, but also a substantial one; Waze users report millions of blockages and accidents per month. “I think it will have a pretty big impact,” said Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps. “A big fraction of GMM users will see these.”
As McClendon described it in an interview Monday, Waze will continue to be focused on two core things: its community, and helping people who commute.
As for Google Maps’ perceived strengths? Those are search, exploring, finding businesses around you, and offering more imagery, according to McClendon.
“We are cross-pollinating as much as possible,” McClendon said of his team and the Waze U.S. unit, which moved to Mountain View a couple weeks ago (the company’s engineering group remains in Tel Aviv). “We’re learning a lot both ways; it’s a very strong meeting of the minds.”
Though Google Maps won’t credit Waze users by name for their incident reports, it will offer them “a much larger audience listening in on that conversation,” McClendon said.
Given that Google has publicly disclosed that the Waze deal is being reviewed retroactively by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, it’s interesting that McClendon is being quite so forward about these integrations, which he said were the first of many.
“Nothing has changed in our actions based on the FTC,” McClendon said.
Waze users will provide to Google incident reports from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, UK and the U.S.
Google Maps for Mobile will also continue to show traffic incidents from other providers including TomTom, McClendon noted.
Another potentially interesting area of overlap between Waze and Google Maps is monetization. Google (duh) has taken a search ads approach — it just added ads on Google Maps for iPhone and iPad, after having them on the Android version for a while. Waze has struck deals to display a smattering of businesses on its map (mainly Taco Bell, it seems) when users are approaching them.
“Waze has a materially different model,” McClendon noted. “But, it’s early days for local advertising and I think we both have good ideas, and right now lots of experiments.”
So will Google really maintain two map apps long-term?
“We would never do anything to hurt the community,” McClendon said, “And right now, having the Waze app is the way to stay focused on it.”
He added, “Long-term speculation, I probably wouldn’t get into, but right now they are two powerful separate applications.”