Ex-Googler Launching iPhone App For Popular Barflies


Dennis Crowley’s mobile social networking service Dodgeball — est. 2004 — was ahead of the game, but never took off. And Google (GOOG) — which bought the service in 2005 — shut it down last Friday. So what’s next?

Crowley showed off his new project, Foursquare, at last night’s New York Tech Meetup. (With co-founder ┬áNaveen Selvadurai.) What is it?

  • Like Dodgeball, the basic action is to “check in” from a bar, restaurant, meeting, whatever. Sort of like what people do sometimes on Twitter.
  • You can also recommend things to do at certain bars/restaurants, like “don’t miss the bathroom at Welcome to the Johnsons.”
  • Unlike Dodgeball, there’s a clever game element to Foursquare.

What’s the game all about? As you check in from bars across major U.S. cities, you get points and awards. As the Observer explains:

Eventually, you can acquire electronic badges for your achievements. “It’s almost like X-Box Live achievements, but for real-life, social life, nightlife,” Mr. Crowley explained. “You start to earn these badges as you do interesting things in the city.” Go out four nights in a row and receive a “bender” badge. There’s a “Brooklyn 4 Life” badge for those who bar crawl in that borough. If you check out a few of the 25 spots tagged as a “douchebags” hangouts around the city, you’ll get a “douchebag” badge for your bravery.

Will it catch on? Maybe. The game element seems like it could be fun. And if your real-life friends use it enough, it could get catchy. (We’re still hoping to find out its utility for people who don’t go out much.)

We haven’t had a chance to talk with Crowley about business, yet, but it seems that he could either charge a small fee for the app, or run ads.

The best news: Foursquare isn’t trying to necessarily replace other social networking services like Twitter, but complement them. You’ll be able to send your Foursquare messages out to your Twitter followers, too, for example.

Foursquare will launch as an app for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone — it’s in the “awaiting approval” phase — and will eventually be available for other smartphones. We’ll give it a hands-on once it’s out.

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