Dodgeball and Social Life

Steven Johnson writes in Discover about Dodgeball, which was bought by Google a few months ago:

If youve ever lived in a big city, chances are you know the feeling: Youre walking around downtown with a few hours to spare at the end of the day, and you know that somewhere nearbyperhaps only a few blocks awaytheres a great bar or caf thats packed with interesting people. If its your hometown, you might even suspect that a few of your friends, or friends of your friends, are hanging out there. But theres no easy way to find it, other than by roaming the streets and peering into windows.

This is what economists would call an inefficient market. You have, on the one hand, a service that the city provides: bars and cafs filled with cool people. And you have a buyer willing to pay for that service. Yet most of the time, the buyer ends up schlepping home unsatisfied because theres no way to connect with the service he seeks.

A pair of tech-savvy twentysomethings named Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert created a solution to this problem. They call it Dodgeball. The service is a mix of social network tools ( la Friendster), simple cell phone messaging, and mapping software. Dodgeball has a playful, hipster veneer, but the underlying premise behind the service gives a fascinating glimpse of the way mobile wireless computing promises to transform city life.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.