Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

The Mystery of the Google Barge Is Over, and the Answer Is Kind of Boring

google_barge_getty

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It was fun not knowing, but today Google took the mystery away from exactly what it’s doing on a barge in San Francisco Bay, and another floating in Portland, Maine.

It’s not a floating party platform. It’s not a rival to the Apple Store. In a Google statement to Techcrunch, the company put an end to speculation:

Google Barge … A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above. Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.

Since Daniel Terdiman of CNET first wrote about the mysterious structure moored off Treasure Island and ferreted out documents pointing to Google as its owner, the nation has been understandably curious about its purpose, even more so when the second one materialized in Maine. Could an armada of floating Google somethings be far behind?

Google — naturally — was totally mum, requiring even the U.S. Coast Guard to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to carry out a routine inspection, leaving imaginative types — including AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski — to let their imaginations run wild.

The Los Angeles Times seems to have come closest to the truth, noting that reporters digging through the paperwork had all apparently focused on the wrong lease, and that the correct one pretty clearly spelled out the barge’s true purpose.

So that’s that: “An interactive space.” It’s like being invited to what you think is the coolest, most exclusive party ever, and getting there only to learn it’s really just a policy seminar with a glossy invitation.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik