Silicon Valley's battle to buy the hottest mapping startup on the planet, Israel's Waze, is finally over, and Google — the undisputed king of 21-century maps — has officially prevailed, purchasing the company for an undisclosed sum that is probably close to the $1.3 billion figure cited by anonymous sources in multiple outlets. (Update: Waze actually got closer to $1.03 billion, a source tells The New York Times.) "To help you outsmart traffic, today we're excited to announce we've closed the acquisition of Waze," reads Google's company statement today, with the noticeable (if expected) absence of a price tag. Other tech giants — like, you know, Facebook — had been vying for the crowd-sourced app and all its lucrative data with offers north of the $1 billion mark, but they failed to clinch a deal apparently because the Tel Aviv-based Waze didn't want to relocate all the way to Silicon Valley. Not everyone bought that line of thinking, but Google specifically mentions Waze's stay-at-home future among the very few details in its very short short announcement: "The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now."
The acquisition makes sense for a company that has every interest in keeping its very loyal Maps users happy. Google certainly wouldn't benefit from Waze and its real-time traffic data getting in the hands of the competition, nor does it need competition from Waze and its 40 million users. "This is less about direct revenue that Google can get and really about keeping Google customers in the Google sphere and using Google services," Charles Golvin, a principal analyst at Forrester Research who studies mobile technology, told The New York Times's Vindu Goel. To that end, Quartz's Christopher Mims brings up a good point: "Absolutely blows my mind that the FTC thinks it's OK for Google to acquire Waze. But whatever, competition, feh."
That's the Silicon Valley way: If you can't copy the competition, then buy it. Sometimes you just have to let it do its own thing for a while after you pony up the millions.
That, of course, raises the next big question for Waze fans: Will Google ruin — or, worse, kill off — Waze as we know it? It certainly wouldn't be the first time a major Silicon Valley player scooped up an outsider for its engineering talent and technology and nothing much else. But it sounds like Google has a relatively hands-off plan for now: "We're excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities." And with Waze all the way in Israel, it's a little harder to swallow them up into the Googleplex anyway.
Update: Waze has posted a statement on the acquisition, assuring fans things won't change:
Nothing practical will change here at Waze. We will maintain our community, brand, service and organization – the community hierarchy, responsibilities and processes will remain the same. The same Waze people will continue to collaborate with you, and we will continue to innovate our product and services, making them more social, functional and helpful for everyday drivers.
Head here for the full statement.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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