Several years ago, attendees at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival loved keeping track of each others’ whereabouts using a service calledDodgeball. They could enter their location on a mobile phone, and it would be broadcast to their friends.
Google Inc. bought Dodgeball in 2005, but the service never took off, and the company pulled the plug on it (and other services) two weeks ago. Undaunted, Dodgeball founder Dennis Crowleyand a partner, Naveen Selvadurai, have released a new similar service called Foursquare. Once again, the faithful are eating it up.
“Foursquare is blowing up,” said Tara Hunt, a blogger and consultant. Although she used to use Twitter to figure out where her friends were, she said that Twitter now has too much noise and …
… it’s not local enough. “I have to scroll through too many pages on Twitter to see where people are,” she said. “But on Foursquare, it’s clear where people are heading.”
Foursquare offers an iPhone application, which comes in handy at SXSW in Austin, Texas, where most of the attendees have Apple’s popular phone. It also includes a game, giving people points for things they do or recommend. The service is offered only in a dozen U.S. cities, including Austin and Los Angeles.
Crowley, who lives in New York, said he started the company when he heard about Dodgeball’s demise. “I still used Dodgeball to make my Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays more interesting. I thought, ‘Now what do we do to replace that experience?’ ” he said.
He launched the site six hours before getting on his plane to come to SXSW. By boarding time, it had already attracted 1,500 users, and he’s been dealing with technical glitches all week.
What’s more, gossip website Valleywag reported that Google may try going after the company for using some of Dodgeball’s software code without permission. Crowley said he’s not using any of the code.
“The code is all brand new. I didn’t understand that story,” he said. “I’m sick as a dog and pasty because I’ve been holed up for two months writing this stuff.”