Internet

Ahoy! It's Google's Computer Navy

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Google barge

Google recently filed a patent for offshore computing barges. That's right, Google conspiracy theorists: A computer navy.

The "water-based data centres" would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google's costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres

Keeping cool and finding tax-free space is a serious issue for Google and its competitors:

Data centres consumed 1 per cent of the world's electricity in 2005. By 2020 the carbon footprint of the computers that run the internet will be larger than that of air travel, a recent study by McKinsey, a consultancy firm, and the Uptime Institute, a think tank, predicted. 

I wonder if they could work something out with my pals over at the Seasteading Institute? Google-owned server farms in international waters, populated and defended by anarchists? Be still, my heart.

For more on the ever-popular Google-is-the-Great-Satan meme, check out the ongoing thoughtful discussion at Tech Liberation Front.

Update: Jesse Walker was similarly intrigued.

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  1. From the graphic in the first link:

    “1 Databarges will be moored 3-7 miles off the coast.”

    The most common definition for a nation-state’s territorial waters is 12 nautical miles. These are well within the taxing authority and enforcement for most governments. (For that matter Three nautical miles is normally within sight of shore)

    And many US states have a property tax assessed on the value of boats – if Google were to start a trend leading to a large movement ‘offshore’ to avoid real estate property taxes, I’m sure governments would ‘fix the glitch’

  2. What’s the difference between a “consultancy” and a “consulting firm”?

  3. The “water-based data centres” would use wave energy to power and cool their computers

    Stupid beyond belief. Waves are what happens when the wind blows. Trying to harvest wave energy would be a jillion times less efficient than sticking a up a windmill.

  4. For more on the ever-popular Google-is-the-Great-Satan meme, check out the ongoing thoughtful discussion at Tech Liberation Front.

    Does this mean that Microsoft is off the hook? Is Bill Gates no longer the leviathan controll the future of computing globally?

    I’ve got to update my scorecard.

  5. In the comments section of that “thoughtful discussion”:

    Google’s Firefox browser has signficant user share, but as it’s a free product competing with another free product, that’s probably not important.

    Oops.

  6. Google’s Firefox browser has signficant user share, but as it’s a free product competing with another free product, that’s probably not important.

    Speaking of Chrome, and since this is a repeat post anyway, does anyone else see Chrome for what it is?

    Chrome is an attempt to marginalize Microsoft by putting all the code processing for all your apps into Chrome. If you use all web apps, especially Google’s, then all the code processing goes on within Chrome’s Virtual Machine, and you will basically live inside Chrome.

    If you live inside Chrome, what the hell do you need Windows for? Buy a thin client with Linux on it, install Chrome, and start up Chrome as soon as you boot up, and you live inside Chrome. Go to a friend’s house? No matter what OS, just load Chrome and you are at home.

    This seems pretty obvious; anyone agree?

  7. Data centres consumed 1 per cent of the world’s electricity in 2005. By 2020 the carbon footprint of the computers that run the internet will be larger than that of air travel…

    I heard Al Gore googles ten-times more often than the average googler.

  8. If they actually do put the things in international waters (beyond 12 miles), some lawyer is still going to have to figure out how exploitation of renewable energy sources might leave Google taxable so long as they are within Exclusive Economic Zones (200 miles from shore).

    And I hope they don’t discount the need to secure themselves against piracy. Freedom/Anarchy isn’t free, you know, especially when you are sitting on tons valuable hardware and data.

  9. Just in case, as Epi alluded to, Jesse posted on this topic a week ago.

  10. Sure, they mentioned pirates in that thread, but no one mentioned the Law of the Sea Convention.

  11. I feel redeemed as I was ridiculed by my friends for advocating nearly the exact same idea about three months ago. Crazy, but awesome… or maybe but just crazy.

  12. Crom is an unforgiving browser that does not answer your prayers.

  13. Episarch-It is obvious, and was one of the first things the tech blogs (at least in the Linux world, where I live) mentioned. Since Chrome is open-source, and at least theoretically platform-independent, I say more power to them.

  14. Number 6, the real issue is whether people will be ok with all their app data stored remotely. If your internet connection goes down for any reason, you can’t get at anything–apps or data. So even if you have a local data backup, you still can’t get at the apps.

  15. If you live inside Chrome, what the hell do you need Windows for? Buy a thin client with Linux on it, install Chrome, and start up Chrome as soon as you boot up, and you live inside Chrome. Go to a friend’s house? No matter what OS, just load Chrome and you are at home.

    This seems pretty obvious; anyone agree?

    That may be the ultimate goal but it isn’t happening anytime in the future.

    Chrome runs differently than any other browser on the market by “sandboxing” each tab’s processing from the rest of the browser. What this means is, when one of your tab’s dies (say from a javascript error), you can kill it’s process without affecting any of the others in the browser. So, unlike IE, Firefox, Opera or Safari a dead tab doesn’t kill your entire browser.

    Downside?? It requires a bit of code that is inherent in Windows NT (2000, XP, Vista) that POSIX boxes (Linux, BSD, OS X) don’t possess. So, until that rather significant hurdle is worked out, Google apps on anything other than Windows is a pipe dream.

    Of course, given the popularity of the Google Summer of Code, I would not be at all surprised if one of the upcoming projects was an open source version of the NT sandboxing processes.

  16. Err, umm, that should have been “anytime in the NEAR future”.

  17. “The “water-based data centres” would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google’s costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres”

    Our’s for the taking maties! Arrrrrr!

  18. Kwix, are you saying that sandboxing isn’t doable on a Linux box?

  19. So Chrome will usher in cloud computing? Thank goodness, now maybe my wife can shut up about it.

  20. I think that is sort of the dreamy, ultimate goal of Google, NutraSweet, and Chrome is a step in that direction.

  21. Databarges will be moored 3-7 miles off the coast

    Sure, that’s what they say now, to lull Our Masters to sleep. Once they’re up and running off-shore, its easy enough to move ’em into international waters. Bwahahaha!

    I heard Al Gore googles ten-times more often than the average googler.

    Seems unlikely. If he did, wouldn’t he be better informed?

  22. Salt water and delicate electronics. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

  23. “ how a story spreads “

    time 0: Drudge
    time +1h: BoingBoing
    time +36h: Reason

  24. They need to find a Sultan of some small southeast Asian country who’s willing to let them do whatever they want with a data center in his Sultanate.

    It worked so well in Cryptonomicon.

  25. wow, a patent application without a full frontal attack on the patent system. hopefully the OTT antitrollery is receding back into that in that post-Sanchie / pre-KMW in-between time (when ([i]Reason[/i] lost its way and T. got way too into teevee shows with real short names).

    Side note to T.: no blog missive from the Inland Empire on the passing of DFW?

  26. Google could just anchor those barges of the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, or one of many tax shelters.


  27. Stupid beyond belief. Waves are what happens when the wind blows. Trying to harvest wave energy would be a jillion times less efficient than sticking a up a windmill.

    Kinetic energy is proportional to mass. Water is very dense compared to air, and carries correspondingly more energy. In a way, you’re just using the sea to harvest wind energy, but then at another remove you’re just harvesting solar energy, so what?

    I do wonder how you harvest wave energy on a boat that’s presumably floating up and down on the very-same waves.

    Since I fully expect the first superhuman artificial intelligence to emerge from a Google project, it’s good they’ll have autonomous servers to run it. Our grandchildren will make pilgrimages by boat to worship it…

  28. “populated and defended by anarchists? Be still, my heart. ”

    With some assistance from the Libertarian navy.
    All aboard for freedom.

  29. the real issue is whether people will be ok with all their app data stored remotely

    That’s a big issue, and there are some others. Such as, will people give up rich client apps for generally crappy web apps with less functionality? Will people surrender much of their time putting up with intrusive advertising? I don’t see any of that happening any time soon.

  30. Google refused to say how soon its barges could set sail. The company said: “We file patent applications on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products, services or infrastructure, some don’t.”

    The whole story is bullshit. Its not gonna happen any time soon (not in the next decade). It isn’t just the computers that would need craploads of power. All the data going to/from the servers would have to be wireless. That’s a lot of transitting going on – hardly a green way to move data. Ignore latency issues, can they even move that much data with ground-based microwave or satellite? The ship would sink from all the antennas. Fiber wouldn’t seem too practical given ships tend to move around a bit.

    Google’s pseudo-slogan is “Don’t be evil”. Is it evil to move offshore to avoid taxes? Those republicans at Google should think of the children! (Joke, I know they’re liberals)

  31. Is it evil to move offshore to avoid taxes?

    Not if they don’t plan on using any services that are paid for with taxes. So… don’t come crawling to the Coast Guard when the pirates attack.

  32. I guess they aren’t worried about torpedoes.

  33. “I heard Al Gore googles ten-times more often than the average googler.”

    I think the actual quote is that he “drools” more often than the average “drooler.”

  34. Waves are what happens when the wind blows

    I thought they had a lot to do with the moon’s gravitational pull. And besides…tidal generators…Utopia Three…simulated perpetual motion? C’mon, you know wanna.*

  35. Tides are caused by the moon’s pull & that includes waves, but the size of the waves are caused by wind, as you might infer if you’ve ever been in the open sea during a big storm — big waves, lots of wind.

  36. Then again I really don’t know what I’m talking about here.

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