Google Buys Into Ad-Supported Mobile Networking

Google has acquired mobile social networking firm dodgeball.com in a move that could help the search player deliver location-based advertising on cell phones. Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.

New York City-based dodgeball.com uses SMS (define) and MMS (define) technology to allow consumers to connect with friends and friends-of-friends at nightspots in 22 U.S. cities. Because users text dodgeball to indicate their locations, the company can use that information to target ad messages to users within a specific geographic area who have opted-in. The company says it can also target by date and time, weather conditions, or by city.

In a June 2004 campaign, vodka marketer Absolut sent opt-in subscribers messages that said, “What a gorgeous day! Reply with @venuename telling us where u are. Dodgeball & Absolut will send the closest outdoor patio.” When users responded, the company followed-up with information about the closest place where they could enjoy outdoor drinks.

Google declined to comment on the acquisition or on its future plans for the service.

In a message on the dodgeball Web site, founders Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert characterized the sale as an opportunity for them to build more features.

“We have lots 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. There’s some cool stuff in the works,” the message reads. Crowley and Rainert have a history of work in the interactive world. Crowley previously managed mobile applications at Vindigo, and has worked at MTV Networks and ABC. He also served a stint at JupiterResearch. Rainert most recently worked at ECCO design on user interface projects, and he has also worked at agencies Razorfish and R/GA.

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