For a company with only about 110 employees, Waze Inc achieved what most other companies require thousands of employees worldwide to do — it has created a navigation app with a comprehensive map with turn-by-turn directions.
Waze does this by turning to the users of the app to create and maintain the map — at its most basic, Waze users themselves automatically build a map of area by simply having the app running as they drive around.
With more drivers using the app, an ever more accurate map of the roads in the country is created.
But mapping is just one of the features of Waze.
Its main function is to provide navigation and traffic information, and this is where active participation is encouraged through a gamification system that rewards users who contribute traffic information and correct mapping inaccuracies.
The users of the app, called Wazers, are also scored using a reputation system, with the highest ranking and most reliable contributors given the power to make corrections and additions to the map.
Today, Waze has nearly 50 million users worldwide and 1.5 million active users in Malaysia alone and of that number, some 3,300 users are also map editors.
Malaysians may be surprised to learn that this country is actually in the top five when it comes to adoption of the Waze app.
In fact, Malaysians can take the credit for literally building the Waze map into what it is today
“In some countries, we start with a base map, but with the Malaysian map on Waze, we had no base map and it was literally a blank slate and all you see now is 100% built up by users alone,” said Dror M. Cohen, senior engineer at Waze.
The company has proven to be so valuable that tech giant Google earlier this year bought Waze for US$1.1bil (RM3.53bil) and soon integrated Waze’s socially-obtained traffic information into its own Google Maps.
On Waze’s part, the partnership with Google has not changed how the company operates, except that Waze map editors now have access to services like Google’s Street View for checking accuracy and making corrections.
Waze itself is a free app, with revenue obtained from advertisers who are given a number of ways to advertise in the app itself, such as by buying POIs (points of interests) which will show up on the map, amongst others.
The Waze app is available on iOS, Android and also Windows Phone platforms.