Google buys Dodgeball networking service

Google continued extending its reach beyond the PC this week by acquiring social networking service Dodgeball.com, according to a note posted Wednesday on Dodgeball.com's Web site. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. A Google spokesman confirmed the acquisition but declined further comment, saying the company is not yet ready to discuss its plans for Dodgeball.com.

New York-based Dodgeball.com formally launched last year as an expansion of a grad-school project started at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. The service lets users "check in" their location at a bar, club, restaurant or other local gathering spot, then transmits that information as a text message to the mobile phones of selected other Dodgeball.com users in the area. The goal is to spark in-person connections among friends, acquaintances and friends-of-friends.

Google's eclectic portfolio includes other experimental meldings of social interactions with technology, such as Orkut, a Friendster-like site started by one of Google's employees and affiliated with the company. Unlike Orkut, Dodgeball.com's focus is on offline interaction: It aims to connect mobile users when they're on the move and away from their PCs.

Dodgeball.com creator Dennis Crowley said in the Web site note that he and his partner, Alex Rainert, chose to sell to Google because they like its approach to technology.

"As a two-person team, Alex and I have taken dodgeball about a far as we can alone," Crowley wrote. "We talked to a lot of different angel investors and venture capitalists, but no one really 'got' what we were doing -- that is until we met Google. The people at Google think like us. They looked at us in a 'You're two guys doing some pretty cool stuff, why not let us help you out and let's see what you can do with it' type of way."

Crowley said little would change immediately for Dodgeball.com's users, beyond the service's adoption of Google's privacy policy and service terms. He and Rainert will remain with the company and begin work on new features, he wrote: "We have a lot of ideas that we've wanted to work on for a long time and we're excited that we will now have the time and resources to actually follow through with them."

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Stacy Cowley

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