Alphabet continues its cost cutting and consolidation exercise, with the latest impacting Google’s highly popular mapping service.

CNBC reported that Chris Phillips, who oversees Google’s maps division called Geo, confirmed in an email to staff on Tuesday that Google is axing Waze staff.

The Waze layoffs come after Alphabet said last December it would carry out consolidation around its mapping and navigation units, amid pressure to cut costs and consolidate operations.

Waze consolidation

Google said six months ago that it would merge its teams working on mapping service Waze and products like Google Maps, on Friday 9 December 2022.

Google indicated at the time that it didn’t expect any layoffs as part of the reorganisation, but Waze CEO Neha Parikh would exit the company following a transition period.

That change saw Waze’s team of 500 employees move to Google’s Geo organisation, which oversees Google Maps, Earth and Street View.

Google had said that Waze would continue to be a standalone app, which boasts roughly 151 million monthly active users worldwide.

Waze is a mobile navigation app that allows drivers to build and use live maps, real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation.

Waze works by allowing users to crowd-source their commutes and other drives using the app to report traffic jams, accidents and other traffic details along the way.

Waze is free for users, which has contributed to its popularity.

Waze acquisition

Google acquired Waze (formerly known as FreeMap Israel) back in 2013 for $1.3 billion, after it had also been courted by Apple and Facebook.

At the time of the acquisition, analysts had speculated that Google had bought Waze in large part to keep its technology out of the hands Facebook and Apple.

Google stepped in to acquire the outfit after previous talks between Waze and Facebook had failed to result in a deal.

And in late 2012, it was rumoured that Apple was about to purchase Waze.

Indeed, the rumour mill a decade ago noted that Apple would acquire Waze in order to bolster its own poorly received mapping services, which had suffered after Apple tried to build a Google Maps replacement for its iOS 6 operating system in September 2012.

But questions remain about whether Waze remains a good fit within Alphabet, considering it also offers its own Google Maps sat nav system.

In February 2021, Waze’s former top executive Noam Bardin reportedly said Waze had struggled to grow within Google and that it could have “probably grown faster and much more efficiently had we stayed independent.”.

Waze layoffs

Now Geo head Chris Phillips has confirmed job losses because the company is shifting its Waze strategy to include Google ads, rather than using a separate ads system.

“We have decided to transition Waze’s ads monetisation to be managed by the Global Business Organization (GBO), similar to Google Maps,” Phillips wrote. “Unfortunately, this will result in a reduction of Waze Ads monetisation-focused roles in sales, marketing, operations and analytics.”

The company hopes to “create a more scalable and optimised Waze Ads product,” Phillips reportedly wrote, adding that it will “wind down the current Waze Ads product while we focus on building new Waze Ads powered by Google Ads.”

According to CNBC, Phillips said the company would be notifying advertisers and partners of the change on Wednesday, and told staff that his team will answer questions and share its plans for next steps at “our next Waze Town Hall” on 11 July.

The Phillips email did not reveal how many jobs would be eliminated.

“Decisions like these are incredibly difficult,” Phillips reportedly wrote. “Each one of these Wazers contributed to Waze’s success and culture, and I want to express my gratitude and respect for what they have achieved.”

A Google spokesperson confirmed the layoffs to CNBC, and other details of Phillips’ email in a statement and said the company “remains deeply committed to growing Waze’s unique brand, its beloved app and its thriving community of volunteers and users.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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