Google’s parent deflates Internet-beaming balloon company

SAN RAMON, CALIFORNIA (AP) — Google’s parent company is letting the air out of an Internet-beaming balloon company that was providing online access from the stratosphere.

The plan to shut down Loon was announced late on Thursday, ending what started out nine years ago as one of Google’s secret projects in its so-called “moonshot factory”, a division now called X.

Google, Loon and X all are owned by Alphabet Inc, which draws upon Google’s digital advertising empire finance risky ideas like Internet-beaming balloons and another high-profile flop, Internet-connected glasses.

As reflected by its name, Loon was viewed as a crazy idea from the start.

Yet Google’s hopes for the project were a lofty as the high-flying balloons themselves when the company finally took the wraps off the project in New Zealand in June 2013.

The ambitious goal at that time was to launch thousands of massive balloons 12 miles into the stratosphere in order to bridge the gaping digital divide between the world’s 4.8 billion unwired people and their 2.2 billion plugged-in counterparts.