What's Google hiding in their mysterious barges near San Francisco, Portland, and Maine, surrounded by chain-link fences and 24-hour armed guards? Why did they gag government officials with non-disclosure agreements? And how can a private company do that, anyway? The questions pile up.
The Google mystery barges docked near San Francisco and Portland, Maine are getting even more mysterious. We've seen the barge and heard the arguments about what's inside. But news that the search giant is making government officials keep their mouths shut about them—that takes it to the next level.
A new report from Reuters, reveals that Google compelled at least one Coast Guard employee and at least one California state official sign non-disclosure agreements. That layer of security goes on top of a whole host of other efforts to keep the project concealed. The barge in San Francisco is covered in a tarp, surrounded by a chain-link fence and watched by security guards 24 hours-a-day. A nearby construction superintendant described the entire construction project as "very hush hush," somewhat in awe. "It was a phenomenal production," Bob Jessup told Reuters. "None of them would tell us anything."
But across the country, things seem a little more lax. Reporters from the Portland Press Herald managed to cruise right up next to the apparently identical barge that Google has parked in the Portland Harbor. From that close vantage point they were able to see that the barge is four-stories-tall, 63 containers in all that have been hollowed out creating big rooms inside with a door at each end. They've also learned that the barge was assembled in New London, Connecticut—a local tugboat company snapped a photo upon arrival—and is scheduled to have interior work done in the near future.
This is all interesting information, but unfortunately, none of it tells us much about what these barges are actually for. While some have suggested that they're being built as giant floating Google Glass stores that will go from town-to-town on a nationwide marketing party, others make a good argument that they're actually going to be giant floating data centers. Given that Google owns a patent for this very thing and has talked in the past about using floating data centers as emergency backups, the argument holds water, but it's really too soon to tell for sure.
What next? Well, we're hoping somebody's going to start selling dinghy rides to get up close and personal with the barges. Maybe then, we'll actually get some real details about these barges' ultimate purpose. That or we'll all just have to sign nondisclosure agreements, like everyone else. [Reuters, Portland Press Herald]