Google Mystery Barge: Company says San Fran, Maine structures are interactive showrooms.

Google's Mystery Barges Are a Mystery No Longer

Google's Mystery Barges Are a Mystery No Longer

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Nov. 6 2013 3:59 PM

Google's Mystery Barges Are a Mystery No Longer

A Google barge under construction is docked at a pier on Treasure Island on October 30, 2013 in San Francisco, California

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google on Wednesday brought an end to the mounting speculation about what it plans to do with a pair of mysterious barges that have been spotted off America's coast. The good news? The tech giant isn't planning to invade. The bad? The answer isn't all that exciting. From the sounds of it, the four-story structures on deck will serve as little more than glorified showrooms for Google products. Here's the statement a company spokesperson provided to TechCrunch this afternoon:

"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."

The barges—one in the San Francisco Bay, the other off the coast of Maine—were first spotted late last month, prompting something of a bureaucratic treasure hunt by enterprising reporters hoping to solve the mystery. A few geeky inside jokes on the ship's registration forms eventually led the media to Google. From there, speculation centered on the possibility that the company was planning on using the oddly shaped structures as floating data centers (a guess that was based in part on a company patent from 2009). Looking back, of course, the real purpose of the barges—publicity—seems obvious.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.