Google solves barge mystery: 'A floating data centre? A wild party boat? Sadly not'

Construction on the barges began a year ago but Google have only now said that the barges will be used as 'interactive spaces to learn about technology'

The four-storey structure in San Francisco Bay
The four-storey structure in San Francisco Bay

The mystery of Google’s four-storey barges has finally been solved, with the search giant announcing that it will be using the structures as educational spaces.

The first barge appeared in San Francisco Bay and a second, identical boat was spotted later in Portland. Each is 250ft long, 72ft wide and covered in scaffolding.

Initial reports suggested that they might be linked with a patent filed by Google in 2009 for a “water-based data centre,” but the company has laughed off these suggestions.

"Google Barge ... A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above," says the statement. “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.”

This development is not without precedent: last year the search giant proposed building (on land) a private museum and tech demo space known as the “Google Experience Center”. The project was to form part of a $120 billion update to the company’s global headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Although Google’s statement has dampened down some of the speculation regarding the project, the secrecy with which the barges were constructed still raises some eyebrows. Building on water rather than land meant that the company could avoid filing public permits, and US Coast Guard officials who inspected the barges signed non-disclosure agreements.

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