Google's hopes of operating a floating technology showcase in the San Francisco Bay appear to have sunk, with word that the online ad-slinger has sold off at least one of two mysterious – or merely hare-brained? – Google Barges.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that Google has confirmed the sale of the barge that has sat idle in a harbor at Portland, Maine for the last nine months.
Harbor officials told the Portland Press Herald on Thursday that the floating platform, which reportedly would cost about $4m new, has been towed to the Turner's Island Cargo Terminal in South Portland, where it will be scrapped.
When asked about the fate of a second barge – which has similarly been languishing in the Port of Stockton, California, since being booted from a berth at San Francisco's Treasure Island for construction permit violations – Google declined to comment.
Theories on the purpose of the barges flew fast and furious when they first appeared, ranging from floating data centers to Larry and Sergey's personal offshore party pad.
The closest we ever came to a real answer was when Google issued a statement claiming that the lumbering watercraft would be decked out with "an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."
The cynics among us took that to mean the barges would be aquatic showrooms for Google Glass – and given the kind of publicity the high-tech specs have received, maybe that now seems like a bad idea.
Whatever purpose Google was shooting for with the boats, however, it hasn't made much progress. A company named Cianbro was hired to do interior work on the Portland barge, which was to include "installation of undisclosed technology equipment," but it never got much done. And little seems to be happening with the Stockton barge, either.
Still, local officials can't complain. Google reportedly paid $400,000 in property taxes on the Portland barge in the time it was berthed there. And port officials say the company pays around $12,000 per month in berthing fees to keep its barge in Stockton.
Whether the sale of its barge means Google has given up on the life of the sea isn't clear, but prospects for a Google Navy do seem dim. Earlier this year, the tracking-cookie kingpin conducted trials of a service that would transport workers to a port near its Mountain View campus aboard the vaingloriously named ferry Triumphant, but we haven't heard much about that lately, either.
Google Blimps, anyone? ®