Maybe it's true Facebook and Waze are in talks. You never know if they will throw around with money, just like with Instagram. Having said that, I believe Waze CEO Bardin makes some bold statements, that I question.
From my point of view Waze has a businessmodel that consists of becoming the next Instagram; a silicon valley acquisition target. Waze builds a large userbase with free services, funded by venture capital without making substantial revenue. I see no way how they can make a profitable business on their own, based solely on advertising. But the investors don't seem to care, which makes me believe they are not in it for a standalone scenario. As time passes Waze will need extra funds and investors might become impatient. So Waze CEO Noam Bardin needs to find a buyer for his business in the near term.
Rebranding Waze as 'social mapping' and the 'fabricated' rumours about interest from Apple http://www.fiercemobilecontent.com/story/reports-applewaze-acquisition-rumors-fabricated/2013-01-04 seem a way to lure Facebook as potential buyer. Or to attract new investors in a new fundraising round-up. Here's some statements by Waze I have some second thoughts about.
1) Waze and some media say Waze maps are crowdsourced and traditional mapping companies like nokia owned navteq and tomtom owned teleatlas are not. Which (according to Waze) would make Waze maps 'more reliable'.
I believe Waze Map data are still weak generally speaking, but apart from that: crowdsourcing has been common practice for TeleAtlas and Navteq before Waze was even founded.
Think back to TeleAtlas who were already receiving data from their licence to Google maps since 2006, and they still do in regions outside the US. Or think of TomTom MapShare. And what about OSM, they are a crowdsourced alternative to Google as well.
Speaking for mapmakers who use mapping vans (Google, Nokia and TomTom)... Having people on the ground is a means of valuating crowdsourced data and adding data like speedlimits, but Waze pictures it as an oldfashioned mapping method, opposed to crowdsourcing.
2) Waze's CEO claims Waze being "the only serious contendor to Google Maps". A statement aimed at acquisition targets Apple/Facebook, because that's exactly what both Apple/FB are looking for. Because local advertising will become very big (bigger than desktop search) and can bring customers right to the advertisers doorstep. 55% within the hour: http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/research/14954.html
If Apple will up their game and invest more, they are in a position to grow a proper maps service and grab some of that advertising revenue. Facebook also wants to do that.
The higher end (dedicated sat navs and automotive) will remain playground for navteq/teleatlas and Inrix, with Google trying to enter as well. I would call that the navigation market rather than the social-location market.
3) On the day before Apple Maps launched, Waze's CEO predicted the service to be poor; which he probably knew. He blamed this to his competitor TomTom (who is a competitor as an acquisition target as well), openly blaming 'weak TomTom datasets' as the source for the Apple Maps debacle.
Though we all know the problem was in Apple's merging of many data sources, some flawed flyover imagery by 3C technologies and poor POI search.
4) I personally question if Waze really has 40 million 'users', and how many of those are actually frequently contributing to the traffic or maps. If it would be a single digit percentage that would be great, but I think it's far below that. Whatever the number is, it will be small compared to the billion userbase of facebook. So if the numbers don't matter, then the 1 billion dollar pricetag would be for Waze's crowdsource technology only? To me that would seem a little farfetched.
All in all, from my point of view disruptive businessmodels can be great, but they can also be harmful to existing businesses, when they have no intention to be profitable on a long run, as they are merely an acquisition vehicle. Those ventures might also disappoint consumers who feel sold out once the acquisition is done.