Opening of the Google Offices in Berlin

Opening of Google Offices BerlinOn Wednesday night, Google officially opened its offices at Unter den Linden 14. We used our best gate-crashing skills to get in, but the party was disappointing.

Google’s presence in Berlin will help the company influence government Internet policies. Germany’s strict privacy laws have recently resulted in a couple of high-profile cases being brought against the company here; Max Mosely is making a fuss because the site references photos of him taken at a sex party, and former wife of German President Bettina Wulff says it’s defamatory that her name appears in combination with ‘prostitute’ and ‘escort’ when typed into search. (Bettina happens to be releasing a book; the publicity can’t be bad for sales).

Although the Berlin office functions as a lobby, it has that colourful, nerdy, Googly feel aGoogle Offices Berlinbout it. The meeting rooms are named after Berlin clubs like Berghain and Weekend, you can doodle on chalkboards, lounge around on bean bags etc.

German newspapers such as Die Welt and Bild have been fascinated by the interior deco, but it felt predictable. Besides, hanging kinky toys on the wall is trying too hard…

The attempt to combine lobbying with the image of cool new media company also made the party fall flat. It started off promisingly, with proffered trays of cocktails in Google colours (blue, red, yellow and green) and an interesting flying buffet  (smoked quail eggs served with vegetarian caviar etc). A hypnotizing projection of a globe showed searches going on in different languages around the world, there was a photo booth to mess around in and a massive screen rendering Google Earth in 3D.

Google searches around the world; different colours represent different languages

This was ruined when chief lobbyist Annette Kroeber-Riel began her speech. It took 5 minutes for people to realise she was speaking, her speech was over-long and she read from paper. Then followed speeches from Hans-Joachim Otto (Deputy Economy Minister) and Nicolas Zimmer (Deputy Minister in the city of Berlin) and an uninteresting three-way video conversation using Google Hangouts, by which point everyone had stopped listening again. This would have been tolerable if alcohol was allowed to be served during speeches, but the folks at Google Berlin had told the bar staff to stop serving during this time, showing their true, dull colours.

There were a few celebrities on show, including Jette Joop, but altogether, it was pretty boring…

Looking at other coverage of this party makes me wonder whether those writers were at the same party as me, or whether they’re just making sure their articles will appear in search…

For more, read The Spiegel’s article on How Google Lobbies German Government

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