Internet tech giant Google released a press statement Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation as to the purpose of several massive barges being constructed on both the east and west coast of the United States. In the statement, Google confirmed its ownership of two barges – one in San Francisco Harbor and another off the coast of Portland, Maine – and stated that the structures were not, despite rumours to the contrary, intended as off-shore havens of lawless delight.
“Google Barge…a floating data centre? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above,” Google said in their statement. “Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barges as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”
Rumours circulating regarding the structures, which are roughly four storeys high and made of shipping containers, were spurred on in part by the announcement that Google had forced visiting government inspectors, including members of the US Coast Guard, to sign nondisclosure agreements about what they had seen aboard the barges. However, the US Coast Guard stated that the nondisclosure agreement was an unnecessary step, as it does not usually share proprietary information found during inspections.
Attempts to investigate were met with dead ends for various reporters, as construction on the barges instead of on shore meant that building permits and public plans were not a requirement for Google. However, if it chooses to dock the structures in San Francisco Bay, as the announced intention for an interactive learning centre would seem to require, Google will eventually require the permission of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
Previous speculations regarding the barges’ purposes included a luxury showroom for new Google projects like Google Glass, and offshore data centres – the latter theory of which seemed especially plausible as Google has a history of using shipping containers in the construction of its data centres. Google’s statement remains somewhat vague, and it is still unclear whether the tech company intends for both or only one of the two barges it has acknowledged – out of a possible four, according to registration numbers – to act as interactive learning spaces for the public.