Update, 3:10 p.m.: The Google Barge is also one of the few floating vessels capable of sassing reporters on Twitter, though for four days it stayed reticent about its true purpose. It did clarify yesterday that it's not a haunted house.
Speculations that Google's two "mystery" boats were just a massive, glass-bottomed publicity stunt turned out to be true -- sort of. At least, the truth is a lot more disappointing than the theories we originally floated.
When curious journalists first began inquiring about the two 4-story tugs docked off the coast of Treasure Island and Portland, Maine, representatives of the tech company and various government agencies ably brushed off their questions. Nonetheless, anonymous sources managed to push two unlikely but somehow enticing explanations. One camp believed that Google had created two separate floating data centers, as evidenced by a patent it procured four years ago. The other camp thought Google wanted to dock the barge at Fort Mason and convert it into a Google Glass retail store -- a plan stymied by coastal permit protocols.
But neither hunch is true.
Google's boat actually isn't a mysterious Flying Dutchman searching for mooring. It's a party boat.
We could probably expect nothing more glamorous from a company famous for juvenile excess and velvet-rope fetes. According to KPIX 5, which did an admirable job chasing this story, the three bottom stories of each Google barge will serve as showrooms for high-tech gadgetry. The upper deck will include bars and open verandas where the company's VIP guests can sip fancy frou-frou cocktails.
What an utter letdown. Perhaps we can be consoled knowing that Google took this project just as seriously as every gumshoe reporter who trailed it. A year in the making, Google's party boat is a product of GoogleX, the secret facility near its corporate headquarters in Mountain View. According to KPIX 5 reporter Ken Bastida, it's being personally steered by co-founder Sergey Brin. And the showrooms will be tricked out with candy paint and chrome outfitting -- hopefully in the same opalescent colors as a Google Nexus touchscreen.
Google will still have to reveal its plans to regulators if it wants the boat to be anything more than a stack of empty shipping containers, which might explain why the company -- or coastal zoning overseers -- ultimately came clean. It does seem like a rather anticlimactic denouement, especially in light of reports that the party boat is really a gauntlet thrown at Apple.
Unless, of course, there's a secret underneath.