Google, the publicly held Mountain View, CA firm best known for its search engine, has acquired dodgeball, a social networking tool for mobile urbanites and one of the earliest examples of mobile social software.

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Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert were students of mine at ITP. I’ve watched them build Dodgeball over the last few years, which was both inspiring and instructional. Given the level of thought and effort they’ve put into it, this is really good news, for them and for Google.

More to say later, but the important thing now is that Dodgeball adds to a really interesting set of ‘sand in the oyster’ issues for Google. Google has historically been information-centric. The content and character of social relations don’t fit well into that view of the world, but matter, a lot, to users. (As we’ve often said around here, community != content.)

Gmail, Orkut, and now Dodgeball all touch this issue. Dodgeball in particular is built on a mix of three different kinds of maps: maps of location (118 rivington St), maps of place (a bar called The Magician), and maps of social environment (“I’m here. Where are my friends?”) By mixing them, Dodgeball mingles informational and social aspects of a user’s life into something more valuable than either of those things in isolation.

As Brewster Kahle says ‘If you want to solve, hard problems, have hard problems.” The integration of information-centric and social-centric views of the world will be awfully valuable, if Google gets them right.

So congrats to Dodgeball and to Google!

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