Facebook close to acquiring navigation app Waze so it can sell you ads while you drive

The Facebook rumor mill is churning with reports that Zuckerberg and company are inching ever closer to sealing the deal on a purchase of the popular crowdsourced navigation app, Waze.

Waze has been the subject of a bidding war between both Apple and Facebook over the past year. The Israeli startup reportedly turned down a $300 million bid from Facebook only six months ago, and a $500 million bid from Apple just this past January. According to several reports in the Israeli and American press, Facebook is in final negotiations to sealing the deal that may be worth anywhere between $500 million and $1 billion, depending on whose sources you believe. Though, we should keep in mind that Apple has a little over $120 billion just kinda sitting around, so a counter offer is always possible.

The Waze MacGuffin

Waze would prove to be a valuable acquisition for both Apple and Facebook. From Cupertino’s point of view, the popular app, which currently boasts 47 million active users—double what it had just last year—could help erase the stain of the great Apple Maps fiasco of 2012 and give the company independence from mobile rival Google.

For Facebook’s part, Waze would be a way to extend its social network into the automotive space. At the New York International Auto Show in March, Doug Frisbie, Facebook’s head of automotive global marketing mentioned Waze by name as a prime example of the merging of the social web and automotive mobile experience. While that all sounds nice and good, FB is a for-profit enterprise and Waze would provide the company a new way to sell ads while you are in transit.

In the mobile maps game, Waze has secured a comfy second place only to Google in markets throughout Europe and North America. However, in developing nations such as Brazil, Uruguay, and Indonesia, the app has surpassed the mighty Google Maps by far. A rising segment of the globe’s population has skipped the desktop rungs of the digital ladder and bolted full steam into the mobile age. An app like Waze can be a new bridge for big tech companies looking to court this rising class.

This guy wants all the things.

If the Waze acquisition goes through, it will be Facebook’s third major Israeli acquisition in as many years. In 2011, FB snapped up social bundling app Snaptu for $70 million, and in 2012 it purchased facial recognition software firm Face.com for $60 million. In both those instances, Facebook relocated these companies and employees to headquarters in San Francisco, New York, and London. According to reports from Forbes and the Israeli paper Haaretz, one of the last sticking points is overcoming Waze’s wish to keep the R&D shop in the middle east.

If all the rumors are to be believed (and they’re all still rumors at this point), we should see if the two techy lovebirds can make it official in very the near future.

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