Google's barge explanation: Bilge?

It took Google many long, difficult days to decide why it had begun to construct barges. The explanation, by no means a definitive one, still raises eyebrows.

Come over here, children. This will be fun.
James Martin/CNET

I can feel the slightly pungent warmth that accompanies great sighs of relief.

After long, difficult days of fear and speculation, Google has finally explained that it is building structures on barges not to create technological islands upon which the company can conduct dubious scientific experiments.

Instead, Google offered a statement that it was just, oh, you know, building a nice floating glass box that children could swim to, in order to learn about new technology.

The actual words read: "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."

Please forgive me, but if you decide to build what looks like quite a substantial structure out on the water, you might have some vague idea of what you're going to do with it.

Especially if you're an engineer.

Purpose is an engineer's O-positive. It's the reason why engineers get up in the morning, floss their teeth, and hop on their ergonomic bicycles and air-conditioned, Wi-Fitted buses.

To imagine that these edifishy things were just some sort of vague whim challenges credulity.

Can it have been that Larry Page was having a lemonade and a packet of organic chips with Sergey Brin and said: "You know what, Serg? I'm bored. I know. Let's start building something on a barge with, like, windows and scaffolding, and see what it turns into"?

"Great idea, Larry. Let's build two of them."

It's not as if Google first looked at the Toyota Prius and said: "We could improve on the design of that," only subsequently to decide: "Hey, we could make these things drive on their own."

When CNET first discovered Google's new construction, I suspect that the company that so enjoys knowing where you're at all the time felt barged into.

"Wait a minute. We're trying to change the world here and some journalist actually has the gall to creep down toward open public waters and wonder what we're doing? We're making your life better, that's what, pal. Now float off."

If it were really true that this was just an experiment in trying to make those Chrome pop-up stores look more exciting, Google might have mentioned it straightaway.

If Google was going to create floating Google Glass showrooms, again it might have decided to get people talking (something the company has done an excellent job at doing with Google Glass).

Instead, rumors flowed, veins clogged, worry reigned, and the world's secret services tapped keyboards more furiously.

Many might feel entirely persuaded that these barge-based buildings are merely for fun and games.

Some, though, might still feel the explanation leaves their boat unfloated.