Facebook Rumored To Purchase Traffic App Waze For $1 Billion

According to a report from Bloomberg this morning, Facebook may be close to acquiring Waze, whose navigation app relies on alerts from users to deliver real-time traffic data. The deal is rumored to be 50% in cash and 50% Facebook stock. Waze, available for iPhone and Android, has been considered a likely acquisition target by Apple and possibly Google.

When asked about the acquisition, a Facebook spokesperson told me: "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."

The Israel-based Waze claims 30 million users and bills itself as the world's "fastest-growing community-based traffic and navigation app." Waze users allow the app to send their driving details to others in the area - for example, how long their commute is taking. Users can also provide additional details on their commute, report accidents and offer driver tips. 

Waze users can share their driving activity with Facebook friends from within the app. Waze has long utilized Facebook to help promote its service - though users do not require a Facebook account.

Waze is considered a direct competitor to Google Maps, whose service also offers real-time traffic data. If Apple does not acquire Waze, it could be due to Waze's insistence, according to Bloomberg, that its ongoing development remain in Israel and that its brand be maintained.

This is less likely a concern for Facebook. When Facebook acquired the popular photo sharing app, Instagram, last year, it allowed the start-up to maintain its identity and has for the most part let it take charge of its development and user base. While many initially questioned that $1 billion purchase, Instagram has continued to grow - and remains popular with younger users.  That said, Facebook has moved development of two other Israeli companies it acquired to the U.S. 

Waze claims that by tapping its community of users, it can provide the best real-time traffic data, road conditions data and even provide users with alerts - based on social sharing - of the cheapest gas prices and quickest routes for a group to take to a particular destination.

Facebook, which has recently adopted a "mobile first" strategy, can certainly dramatically increase the Waze user base. Its recent earnings report revealed 189 million mobile-only users and 751 million "mobile monthly active users." 

In addition to its users, Waze relies upon a community of designated "map editors" to improve its overall value, map detail and real-time routing service.  It is not known how this aspect of the service will be impacted by a Facebook acquisition. 

(See also OpenStreetMap: The Maps In Your Apps Are About To Get A Lot Better) 

According to Forbes, Waze and Facebook have signed a term sheet and a deal is expected for between $800 million - $1 billion. Apple is unlikely to counter because, according to Waze CEO Noam Bardin, it has built a mapping service that is too dependent upon its "GPS partners" and less inclined to tap the Waze community. While some Waze data has been used in Apple Maps, Apple primarily relies upon traditional mapping companies, such as TomTom, for its data. 

To date, Waze has received $67 million in VC funding. If purchased, it will likely be viewed as a major win for the budding SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) ecosystem. For more on Waze, here is a helpful video.