Arik Hesseldahl

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As Mapping Costs Rise, Waze’s Volunteer Army Will Give It an Edge (Video)


Asa Mathat /

Waze CEO Noam Bardin says that the crowdsourced mapping company is going to have some key advantages versus much bigger Google as consumers become increasingly more demanding about the quality and accuracy of their mobile mapping applications.

“The companies that are in this space are going find that it’s going to get harder and harder, and that they’re going to have to invest more and more, and the cost of updating your maps is going to increase,” Bardin told AllThingD’s Liz Gannes at D: Dive Into Mobile in New York today.

Waze’s key advantage, he said, will be its 44 million users and 70,000 volunteer map editors who form the backbone of its ability to constantly update and validate its maps. Bardin said that, using its community members, Waze was able to validate a billion and a half kilometers of roads. Its members performed more than half a million edits on its maps last year.

Bardin also said that Waze has been working on an advertising platform. One advertising client is Taco Bell, whose ads appear on the map at various times. As Bardin tells it, users are excited by the ad format, though one questioner called them annoying. “Advertisers want to get to mobile and they don’t want banner ads,” he said.

Waze, which became available in the U.S. in 2010, offers turn-by-turn voice navigation, 3-D views of the road, and voice commands. It surged to popularity in the wake of Apple’s difficulty with its own iPhone Maps application, when CEO Tim Cook endorsed it along with a few others as an alternative while Apple sought to get its app act together.

Bardin said that thumbs-up from Cook caused a spike in the number of Waze users by more than 40 percent according to research firm Onavo Insights.

Over time, Waze has created a network in which its users warn each other of oncoming traffic, hazardous objects and even speed traps. There’s also a gaming element, in which members score points for sending in reports, and unlock features for the number of miles they drive. Occasionally, a local deal pops up on the map.

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