Google Wants You to Be Able to Leave if You Want

Starts Group for Easy Import/Export of Data from Products

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Data portability is an important issue for users and businesses alike. In this age of cloud computing, where so many web users have valuable data hosted by web services, we can sometimes find ourselves vulnerable to the will and occurrences of these services. Let’s say for example, Twitter is one of the key components to your marketing strategy, and one of your main sources of traffic. When Twitter goes down, as it frequently does, this can present quite a problem. Ever wished you could access your tweets when Twitter was down? Comment here.

On the subject of Twitter, the company announced some changes to its terms of service late last week. They tried to emphasize that users "own their tweets." But do users really own them if they cannot access them because Twitter is not working? What if you could export your Tweets into Facebook, or into MySpace? It’s not that one service is better than the other. It’s about simply having the freedom to take your data wherever you want.

Google realizes the importance of this concept, which is why some members of the company’s team have gotten together and formed the Data Liberation Front, a group that is dedicated to making Google’s products easier to get data in and out of. The group has also launched a website at DataLiberation.org, where users of Google products can find information about how to import and export data.

"Many web services make it difficult to leave their services – you have to pay them for exporting your data, or jump through all sorts of technical hoops — for example, exporting your photos one by one, versus all at once," says Brian Fitzpatrick, Data Liberation engineering manager. "We believe that users – not products – own their data, and should be able to quickly and easily take that data out of any product without a hassle. We’d rather have loyal users who use Google products because they’re innovative – not because they lock users in."

Data Liberation Front

The group’s mission statement goes:

Users own the data they store in any of Google’s products. Our team’s goal is to give users greater control by making it easier for them to move data in and out.

"This principle not only applies to individual users, but also to businesses, schools and other organizations that choose Google Apps to provide better tools at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions," says Fitzpatrick. "It should be easy to bring legacy data into the cloud, share data between Google Apps and other IT infrastructure, and get data out of the cloud if it ever makes sense to stop using our service."

At DataLiberation.org, users can simply browse through Google’s list of products and see detailed instructions for each one about how to "escape" to or from any of them. This list includes: AdWords, Alerts, Analytics, App Engine, Apps for Businesses, Blogger, Bookmarks, Calendar, Chrome Boomarks, Contacts, Docs, Finance, Gmail, Health, iGoogle, Maps, Notebook, Orkut, Picasa, Reader, Voice, Web History, and YouTube.

The company says it will be working on adding import/export features to more of its products like Google Sites, and Google Docs (batch-export) in the coming months.

"We think open is better than closed — not because closed is inherently bad, but because when it’s easy for users to leave your product, there’s a sense of urgency to improve and innovate in order to keep your users," says Fitzpatrick. "When your users are locked in, there’s a strong temptation to be complacent and focus less on making your product better."

Google’s certainly not the only company to offer data portability options, but it’s a very large one that has a huge impact on a lot of users and businesses. That’s why Google’s work in this area is so important. The company’s broad range of products that are used heavily on a daily basis emphasizes the importance of the issue on the web in general. Tired of Gmail going down? You can take your info elsewhere if you wish.

Have you ever wished you could get your data out of some product on the web and transfer it to another, only to find that you could not do so? Tell us about your experience.

Google Wants You to Be Able to Leave if You Want
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  • http://sitebyjames.com James

    Let’s see if they are going to allow you to export a users member data and group data… along with the passwords… that should be interesting…

    I think google will have loads of fun teaching people what a CSV file is…

    In any event… I am taking this as an opportunity to build direct connections to their export functions…

    “Just put it up in google… when you are done… I will come get it and then we can make it look like the designer wanted…”

    • http://sitebyjames.com James

      It’s an excellent idea… but “liberation”… that’s a little harsh isn’t it?

      I mean the majority of the world can just export straight to CSV from the database… right into excel…

      Sorry for the double post… When Google does what ASK has been claiming to do… open an API to their search engine or promote the free exchange of scraping “back” the Google “scraped” data… maybe…

      All your data belongs to me… Give us stuff that matters… like service…

      I am tired of trying to make your applications work for other people who can’t figure it out… why don’t you actually OFFER the service of importing and exporting data…???

  • http://sitebyjames.com James

    Sorry… that came off too nasty… It’s actually an awesome idea I think… I think for people like me who can’t stand the google help files… it will be a god send… thank you…

  • http://www.pioutsource.com PI Outsource

    I wish I could extract my attachments by type. (doc., xls, pdf, jpg)

    Any Clues?

  • http://www.videoeditormac.com/ videoeditor

    I don’t want to leave.

  • http://www.vicktrade.com Fania

    I don’t like this idea.

  • http://www.internetmarketingscotland.com/ jeff Internet Marketing

    Sometimes people create new software or technology in order to make like simpler, but I ask myself.”When does ethics and technology stop” Look at it from both sides for a moment.

    1. What are they really trying to achieve with this?
    2. What are the true benefits to us a users beyond what we are currently aware of?

    3. What happens if we believe the hype, what next?

  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    Consider the web like your computer. There’s trash everywhere on the superhighway as well. Anything that can help clean up the web is most appreciated :)

    I think it’s time to go empty my trash bin!

    Follow Snerdey on Twitter!

  • http://www.gardenfurnituresets.net garden furniture sets

    Not really sure about this, afterall once your information goes on the super highway anyone can use, rip off, alter, try to hack & ultimately steal ideas from you left right and centre.

    I’m not sure if being able to export “your” work or ideas will really help.

    home garden furniture

  • Guest

    Hey… Didn’t twitter just lose a few million dollars theoretically speaking by using Google Apps and the Cloud?

    Remember that security breach?

    Maybe it would be a good idea to wait a few more months to see if anybody else looses incredibly sensitive info this way…

    I mean… I hear about people having their online accounts compromised all the time… if it’s easy to get the data out. Maybe they should make sure nobody but you can get into it first?

  • http://www.laokay.com Steve

    Let’s say a tweet was put into a Google Wave but the twitter service was down.

    When the service was restored, the Google Wave would update the main twitter service.

    It would not prevent the tweet from being sent to your twitter list through the Wave as long as you had all your followers on the list, which could be grabbed directly from twitter.

    So as long as people also subscribed to your Google Wave, they’d never miss out on a thing if Twitter went down. It would also update your Twitter Wave if a tweet hit your page from other twitter applications. I think it’s a great idea.

  • http://wehner.org Charles Douglas Wehner

    Savaging ones Tweets is one useful feature that is needed.

    The salvaging of e-mails is FAR, FAR more important.

    We are talking DOWNLOADS.

    No e-mail provider that I know of enables the user to download his entire inbox onto a chip. SD cards and other storage media now have gigabytes of space – more than enough to contain the average inbox many times over. When rescued, it can be inspected and edited at leisure, with no further phone charges.

    Let us spread the word that Hotmail, Yahoo, Google, and all the other e-mail providers should offer a download facility. So, too, should Twitter.

    It is TEDIOUS saving file by file. Also, the format goes missing.

    In the early days of “America Online”, the server suddenly failed. The customers were furious, but they should have known that mechanical things can fail, and should have reduced their dependency upon the technology. Only BACKUPS – that means BULK DOWNLOADS – can keep your data one hundred percent safe.

    Charles Douglas Wehner

  • http://truthsession.net/ Kevin

    Say you’ve had a face book account for a couple of years, and you now want to close the book and go off to another system. One would guess that you could download the contacts from FB and import them into another system. Especially as FB allows and promotes the importing of contacts onto their system, that simple sharing of information is just common sense. Not with FB. They say it’s a one way street and if you try to download your “Friends” contact information you’re in violation of the terms of service and SOL with your data. I’ve seen the problem and I’m not impressed. If FB wants to be the giant of social networking, make it easier to leave as well. More people will respect you for the practice. As it stands now, you can judge that book by its cover.

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