TLWIR 44: Waze Isn’t Free Software, But It’s Open Source In Spirit

by Rex Djere on September 4, 2012


Waze Running on the HTC Vivid (Android ICS)

I’ve seen a very interesting trend recently: even people that do not embrace open source and free software are beginning to embrace a lot of the concepts. For example, Kickstarter has brought free software and collaborative concepts to the art of raising capital to fund great ideas. There are now several great ideas that have received over 1 million dollars through Kickstarter. Here is one example: Fantasy Figurines recently raised $3,429,236 to make new models of their popular figurines.

Free software and open source concepts have spread into areas where they were never intended to go. Crowdsourcing, a cousin of open source, is growing in popularity as a way for people to share information, get better deals, and to make micro-contributions to society. Over the last few weeks, I have been playing around with some great gps apps, each of which takes a different approach to crowdsourcing: GasBuddy, NavFree USA, and Waze. In The Linux Week in Review 44, I would like to focus on one of the most impressive Android apps that I have found in a long time: Waze.

Why I Love Waze

First, let me start with what I DO NOT like about Waze: it’s not free software/open source. However, based on the incredible capabilities that it brings to the table, I’m willing to give it a pass. Several years ago, I bought a gps navigation unit by a popular manufacturer for more than $200. In a few short years, software developers have created a freely downloadable app that turns my smartphone into a device that exceed everything that my old device could do: turn-by-turn navigation, real-time traffic, community driven information feedback (e.g. telling you where to find the cheapest gas, or the fact that there is a cop sitting 1000 yards in front of you), and it gathers map information to populate its database from Waze users. Keep in mind that these are all things that you would have had to pay a lot of money for just a few years ago. Free software really HAS changed the world.

Why Free Software Spawned Programs Like Waze

I remember being a young man, looking at great software, and saying “I wish that I could write that.” Being a great programmer takes practice and dedication, years of it. Most of us will NEVER be able to write a great computer program. But I CAN write a very good Wikipedia article. YOU may be an expert at finding the cheapest gas in your area. The point is that we ALL have something to contribute. Free software/open source says “we appreciate you and ANYTHING that you can bring to the table.” This is what I have always loved about the movement. Even if a person is not a genius, that person is still valuable, and that person still matters. That is why you see so many people contributing their precious time to these kinds of projects. There is a simple truth about human nature: if you make people feel that their contribution is appreciated, they will work 10 times as hard. This is the genius of FOSS. The rest of the world has looked and they have taken notice.

How To Try Out Waze If You Have Not Already

This isn’t a commercial for Waze. I felt compelled to write about it because I truly felt that it is revolutionary. A lot of people already know about it. You can see other Waze users on your gps map as you drive around with it. When I started playing with GasBuddy and NavFree USA a few months ago, I said to myself “it would be fantastic if someone combined the capabilities of these two apps”. This is basically what Waze does. Since Android is a more open platform, I would strongly recommend Waze on your Android device. However, it is also available for the Iphone.

The main Waze website is here:

You can download Waze from Google Play here:


Programs like Waze make me feel very good about the future of Free Software. It is unavoidable. The 21st century, as I see it, is really about a massive shift towards working smarter, not harder. Thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing you in TLWIR 45!

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