Facebook and Waze: blending your worlds together one data point at a time

May 10, 2013
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Word has it Facebook is looking to acquire crowdsource navigation app Waze for a hefty $1 billion. Such a move would provide the social network with an array of location-based data far more substantial than any it has had thus far, adding the information on top of what it already knows about consumers' likes, check-ins, and social circles. There's been a lot of talk about what Waze could do for Facebook, but the end result of that is more personal: what a Waze acquisition could mean for mobile users. Location data presents the ability to uniquely blend our real-world and digital worlds, mixing them together in such a way that one is always fueling the other.

Imagine for a second that you're out shopping, perhaps for a major holiday or to facilitate the demise of your latest paycheck. Perhaps, in this scenario, you've a tech item or two in mind, a camera maybe, and so you spend the day driving from one electronics store to the next in a spree of window shopping.

If you're like a lot of Facebook users, you'll probably pull out your smartphone at least a couple times to check up on the digital half of your social world. Imagine, in this scenario, that you notice something interesting - the sponsored ads are specific to your gadget-hunting activities of the day. They're pointing you to nearby electronics stores and deals for items you might find at them.

Such could become the reality for many mobile users if Facebook acquires Waze.

Ads are only a small part of the larger picture, however, with the access to such data presenting opportunities for improved local searches, something Facebook has been working towards for a while now. Likewise, data from your Facebook could be used to provide recommendations when using the navigational elements, such as notifications of nearby deals around lunch time for restaurants you've liked on the social network.

As analyst Michael Boland told AdWeek: "It fits the paradigm of the real-time status, which is the lifeblood of the News Feed. [With a Waze acquisition], you add an additional dimension to not just what you're doing or thinking but where you are and where you’re going."

So the question is, then: is this good or bad? The answer to that will largely depend on who you're talking to, and many will have an initial knee-jerk reaction that is negative to the idea of Facebook knowing even more than it already knows about you. When looked at in the grander scheme of our increasingly digital lives, however, it has some nice possibilities.

These are services many of us already use, albeit independent of each other. By merging them together, our habits, locations, friends, likes and more all become centralized in a single location, with the data working among a variety of services to tailor our digital lives as closely as possible to our real-world lives. Searches become more precise. Ads become eerily relevant. The information we need starts appearing just when we need it, a la Google Now.

Rather than having information thrown at us by advertisers who hope something will stick, the information will be more of the curated sort: carefully sorted and tailored and presented at the times we're most likely to want it, helping us save money when we're ready to spend it, find places when we're ready to shop - all of it based on our own likes, preferences, habits, schedules, and routes.

Knowing that, perhaps the real question is: what happens when our physical and digital worlds become part of each other? Only time will tell, but the prospect is exciting.


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