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Is Google trying to swipe Waze from under Facebook's nose?

Google may be attempting to snap up social mapping and traffic service Waze, despite long-standing rumors that Facebook is already in talks to buy the company for as much as $1 billion, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Waze is an Israel-based startup that blends turn-by-turn GPS navigation with social functionality, pulling data from its 30 million-strong user base to track traffic congestion and help provide the quickest possible routes to drivers. The idea is to eventually make the service self-funding through location-based advertising.

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The news agency cites anonymous sources as saying that neither Facebook nor Google is currently close to finalizing a deal, and that Waze could even opt for a further round of venture capital funding in order to expand its services.

Marcus Thielking, co-founder of mapping and location service provider Skobbler, says that it's difficult to understand the functional advantage Google would gain from acquiring Waze.

"Google is already a market leader in our space, with one of the best digital map services in the world. From a technology standpoint, a Waze acquisition would do little to enhance Google's overall product. And, while Waze's social traffic data and functionality is valuable, keep in mind that Google has Google+ and Android, which offers much more scale with regard to social on mobile," he says.

On the other hand, Thielking argues, Waze would check several important boxes for Facebook, which isn't as advanced in terms of mobile and location technology.

"Such a purchase would enable Facebook to jump-start its own mapping ambitions and potentially compete with Google and Apple down the road," he says. "Also, buying Waze, like Instagram, would allow Facebook to build out their market share on mobile, which is a core focus for them currently."

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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