All Hail Waze, King of the Map Apps

Stop everything, download it to your phone and put a match to your maps.

When I go out with my friends I usually talk about current events, restaurants or that girl at the end of the bar who I’m convinced looked at me but actually didn’t. That’s all in the past. I now just blabber on about how much I love Waze, the crowd-sourced mapping app for iPhone and Android. Since my explanation is usually, “I love Waze, Wazey, Waze, Waze, mmm, mmm, mmm, it’s in my phone,” I am going to legitimize my fixation a bit.

There are millions of cars on the road, each presumably with an occupant on board observing the conditions of the road ahead. Why not use that mindful occupant’s knowledge to improve the driving experience for all? That’s exactly what the founders of Waze, a very social map application, thought when they built the thing back in 2007.

Over eight years ago, Ehud Shabtai and Amir Shinar built Waze in their home country of Israel to improve commuters’ experience. Then in 2013, Waze was purchased by Google for $1.1 billion. Rather than conjoining Google Maps and Waze, Google decided to keep the behemoths separate due to the loyal following each service had accumulated. With 50 million users and 360,000 volunteer app editors, Waze is able to use the app’s community to pinpoint within seconds where bottlenecks, a speed trap or a crash are along your route. Although Waze consists of just over 200 employees (mostly in Israel), the user plays a large role in the app’s function. With the ability to update traffic patterns, warn drivers about potholes, disabled vehicles and other traffic hazards, Waze users comprise a community—and like any community, they heavily rely on each member to make the enterprise work.

We all know that this app won’t make traffic disappear, but according to Waze executive Di-Ann Eisner, traffic can be “better managed.” There are other apps with these functions, but none comes close to Waze’s speed and accuracy, all borne of its critical mass of users.

Bonus fun party trick that is 100-percent guaranteed not to impress the girl at the end of the bar: Celebrities such as Stephen Colbert and Arnold Schwarzenegger have lent their voices to the commands featured on the app.

She was totally looking at me, bro.