Google Scraps Proposed Floating Product Showplace Barge in Maine

Last fall, Google quietly worked to build product showcases on large floating barges in Maine and California. Now, the company is scrapping the barge in Maine.

Google barge

Google has confirmed that it has sold a four-story floating barge in Portland Harbor in Maine, where it had been building what it called a floating interactive space where consumers could one day see new technologies firsthand.

Now, instead of planning a future unveiling of the finished project, Google apparently dropped it. In an email response to eWEEK, a Google spokesperson would only confirm that the barge had been sold and declined to reveal any more about the now-defunct project or any such future endeavors.

The scrapping of the barge in Portland Harbor was first reported July 31 by The Portland Press, which said it will be heading out to an undisclosed location after being purchased by an unnamed international barge company. The barge carried 63 shipping containers that were arranged to create a four-storey building and was slated to be filled with technologies that were to be displayed to the public.

Jessica Grondin, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, told The Portland Press that the Google barge has been good for Portland's image because it linked Portland with San Francisco and high-tech innovation. "I was hoping for something to come from this," she told the newspaper. "Everybody was waiting to see what was actually going on."

Google would also not comment on the status of a similar barge that it was working on concurrently in San Francisco Bay last fall. The San Francisco barge project got into some regulatory hot water in February, when it was learned that the project didn't have the necessary permits for its construction and operations, according to an eWEEK report. That barge had to be relocated while the permit issues were reviewed and resolved.

Both projects began back in October as planned floating technology showrooms for consumers.

Google initially acknowledged the presence of the San Francisco Bay barge project last November, describing it as an interactive space where it was envisioned that consumers could visit to learn about new technology. The company at the time didn't refer to the second Google barge that had appeared in Portland Harbor.

Since late October, when the presence of the two Google barges at opposite ends of the nation were first reported all over the Internet, the company has been quiet about its intent. That, of course, inspired a flurry of attention and guesswork by pundits, news reporters and local officials about the barges. That led to rumors circulating about possible uses for the large floating platforms, including as floating, attention-gaining Google Glass stores or the locations for remote data centers that could be floated wherever they are needed.

The intrigue about the barges even inspired a parody page on Twitter, which previously posted humorous speculative messages about the intent of the hush-hush barges. When the San Francisco permit controversy erupted in February, a post stated: "I tried to hibernate and lay low a while, but now they're making me move. My inner fury has ignited."

The two barges are apparently owned by the same company, By and Large LLC, based in Wilmington, Del., according to The Portland Press.