- 6 Mar 07, 02:16 AM
A beach volleyball court, a dinosaur skeleton and gaudy parasols aplenty - it must be the Google campus.
On the way over in a cab the driver gave me a clear indication of how Google had grown.
"A few years ago there was just one building I took people to, now they own the whole town."
That is something of an exaggeration but the Google real-estate empire does extend quite a way down the length of one of the main arteries in Mountain View.
I am visiting Building 43 - which also gives a sense of how much the Mountain View "start-up" has grown.
Ostensibly I am here to meet with Chris Dibona, the firm's head of open source - and I'll be writing a feature based on our interview - but it's also a good opportunity to gawp from inside of the perimeter of one of the world's most powerful firms.
Everything about Google screams transparency - the buildings are "guarded" by a single security officer outside each building, who sits beneath a Google-monikered parasol.
There is an abundance of open space, courtyards, quadrangles, forums, and the buildings themselves are uncluttered, mixing functionality and hi-tech feng shui. Staff whizz between buildings on electric mini-scooters.
White boards are dotted throughout and the famous "help yourself" juice counters are also in evidence.
Lunch is free for employees and there's more choice than one would find in a small town.
Everywhere there are examples of the legendary 20% scheme that Google operates - letting engineers spend a fifth of their time pursuing personal projects.
On one plasma screen a spinning globe shows search engine queries to Google made in real time - Google is global, the globe is Google's is the message. It was created by one of the engineers in his 20% time.
Visiting authors have signed a near-by white board, among them Stephen Levy and what looks like Neil Gaiman. Hanging from the ceiling is a replica of SpaceshipOne..... At least I think it is a replica....
The Google empire also extends to the airwaves of Mountain View - the wi-fi variety anyway.
Open a laptop in Mountain View anywhere and you are invited to join the free Google wi-fi network.
It's a municipal wi-fi service that brings the on-demand world to everyone, everywhere in the city environs.
It's a transformative technology and one being adopted across the US - San Francisco will soon have Google wi-fi - and other firms/local authorities are implementing similar schemes in the UK.
Check email, make a VOIP call and of course search - wi-fi is becoming a utility like power.
This is Google world and if you are technology lover it is hard not to be impressed by the culture, the scale and the reach.