Looks like Waze is really taking off

Version 2.01

Waze, a free navigation and social networking app and service, is on the move again. Diann Eisnor, Waze’s VP Community Geographer, posted some very interesting statistics and data visualization on the Waze blog this morning. It looks like Waze is a big hit, especially on Apple’s App Store. There is a lot of interesting data presented, and the article is definitely worth a look. The data visualizations are especially interesting. Some of the highlights include:

  • Waze has expanded from 500,000 to 1,500,000 users in the last 9 months.
  • 30 days after the Groups feature was added, there are now 4199 Groups set up worldwide.
  • There are 691 Groups in the US.
  • 70% of the Groups are centered around “Social Commuting.” (i.e.- Commuters who share a route)
  • The rest center around Interests, Lifestyles, Employers, and other topics.

It certainly looks like Waze has struck a chord with its unique blend of navigation, road reporting and social networking. In their recent update to 2.01, the Waze team has addressed some of the bugs that I talked about in my review a few weeks ago. They have managed to take care of the problems with Waze’s voice navigation operating in the background with streaming apps like Pandora or Podcaster. Also included are improved support for the iPad, fixes for some navigation information request bugs, and general performance enhancements. Considering that most of my complaints about Waze centered around these issues, 2.01 looks to be another step in the right direction.

The Waze team has also added an interesting new extension to their popular Groups feature. Waze is now rolling out Custom Groups, which allow organizations and media outlets to have their own branded groups with special features, like real-time widgets and branded icons. Their first two partners are NBC2, a television station in Florida, and The Austin Statesman newspaper in Austin, TX.

This could really be a blow to traffic services like Inrix and even Google, as they are simply aggregating data from several sources and delivering it in a way that traditional media outlets can’t- straight to your phone or GPS device. Most major local media outlets have detailed traffic reports that they play on TV and radio, or maybe even deliver via their own branded apps for smartphones, but they have not had direct access to the apps or devices that people are using for their navigation information today. Add in the fact that radio listenership is in decline, as more and more people are choosing music players or satellite radio for their entertainment on the road, and “old media” often finds itself on the outside looking in.

With Waze’s Custom Groups, these outlets can break down part of that wall and deliver their own traffic and road reports to you, add in those of Group members currently on the road, and deliver that information with their branding inside of a very popular free navigation app. That sounds like a potential hit to me. I would imagine that companies looking to set up Custom Groups in Waze will pay something for the privilege, but if that price is reasonable, I can see many jumping on this bandwagon.

The Custom Groups feature is certainly another interesting development for Waze, because if it catches on, it could cement them as a not just a way of accessing other social networks while traveling, but as a major location-based social networking player themselves. That playing field is still pretty fluid, so there is definitely potential for Waze to make a move. Like the successful initial rollout of Groups in version 2.0, Custom Groups could be yet another launching pad for the Waze team to get their app into the hands of more users. I am looking forward to seeing how this new feature pans out, and hoping that some of my local media outlets hop on board soon so I can try it for myself. If you live in Austin, TX or Southwest Florida and use Waze, I would love to hear about your experience with these new Custom Groups once they are officially launched.

Waze is available for free in the Apple App Store here.