Late last year, Waze faced serious questions about its future at Google when, as part of Google’s company-wide efforts at cost-cutting, Waze lost its status as an independent company. The mapping app was forced to merge with Google Geo (aka the Google Maps division) even though the two apps supposedly remain mostly independent. Six months later, CNBC’s Jennifer Elias reports the job cuts have arrived, and Waze will be losing some employees.
Google Geo’s VP and general manager, Chris Phillips, announced that Waze’s ad platform would be shut down in favor of Google ads and reportedly told employees that the move “will result in a reduction of Waze Ads monetization-focused roles in sales, marketing, operations, and analytics.” It’s not clear how many of Waze’s 500 employees will be affected. Google has been doing all sorts of layoffs lately, with the biggest batch—12,000 jobs—announced in January.
If there’s anything Google is good at, it’s advertising, so it certainly makes sense for Waze to adopt Google’s ad platform. Waze has a lot of redundancy compared to Google Maps, and it’s unclear how far Google wants to take this logic. Right now, the company maintains two separate mapping apps with similar features and similar layouts. Waze has 140 million monthly active users, but that’s not much compared to the billion-plus users of Google Maps. You could certainly argue for a full-blown merger, but Google told CNBC it “remains deeply committed to growing Waze’s unique brand, its beloved app and its thriving community of volunteers and users,” which should calm the fears of Waze users a bit. Remember, though, mergers and shutdowns come at you fast at Google, like when the company most recently said Stadia “is not shutting down” two months before announcing Stadia would be shut down.
Waze takes a crowdsourced approach to traffic problems, allowing users to report road closures, traffic updates, speed traps, construction, and accidents to the Waze service, and that data will be shown to other users. Most of the Waze reporting functionality has already been merged into Google Maps, though Maps doesn’t actually show all of that data to Maps users. For instance, you can report speed traps in Google Maps, but that data is only visible to Waze users. Waze doesn’t use the Google Maps platform and maintains its own map, with a public editor at waze.com/editor. It also has its own routing algorithm for driving.
Waze has been an independent company inside Google since its 2013 acquisition, thanks to a “promise” made between Waze’s long-term CEO, Noam Bardin, and Google’s then-CEO, Larry Page. Bardin left Google in 2021, and with Page no longer Google’s CEO, it sounds like no one is around to uphold this promise. Bardin’s successor, Neha Parikh, was CEO of Waze for almost two years before she also stepped down when the merger was announced, and now Waze is just under the Geo team.