Monday, September 14, 2009

[G] Welcome to the Data Liberation Front

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Data Liberation: Welcome to the Data Liberation Front

I remember the first time I heard Google's CEO Eric Schmidt speak back in 2004. He wrapped up his talk to employees by clearly stating that Google didn't lock its users in. He stressed that we didn't want people to use our products solely because they can't get their data out to switch to a competing service.

It was with this in mind that I started Google's Data Liberation Front two years ago in our Chicago office. We're a small team of Google engineers that aims to make it easy for our users to transfer their personal data in and out of Google's services, by building simple import and export functions. I wanted to make sure that users (myself included, as a consumer of Google products!) always had a choice.

For example, Let's say you want to switch from Yahoo! Mail to Gmail. Here's what you do to import your data:

  1. Open your Gmail account. Go to Settings.
  2. Click on the "Accounts and Import" Tab and then the "Import mail and contacts" button and follow the directions


But what if you've decided that you don't want to use Gmail anymore? No problem. Just click the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab. Not only can you have any new mail forwarded to your new account (for free), but you can also enable IMAP which makes it a piece of cake for other mail programs to access all of your Google mail.


Unfortunately, not all web services make it this easy for you to take your data out of their services. They charge you a fee or make you jump through technology hoops if you want to leave. But we believe that letting you leave our services easily actually helps us make those services better for you. Rather than locking in our users artificially, it makes us earn our users' loyalty by building great products and constantly improving them. If we stop making our products compelling and useful, we lose you as a user. It's just that simple.

We expect to use this blog to give tips and tricks on getting data in and out of Google products, as well as kudos and reviews for services supporting rich import/export features. We think that we can provide simple solutions for liberating/managing your data stored in the cloud, and let you voice your complaints about services that aren't properly liberated.

If you're looking for information on how to move your data in and out of a Google product, we've setup a website, http://www.dataliberation.org/, to be a central location for information on how to move your data in and out of Google products.

If you'd like to contribute suggestions for services that you think need to be liberated, please do so on our Data Liberation
Moderator page. We're also on Twitter @dataliberation.

Posted by Brian "Fitz" Fitzpatrick, Data Liberation Front
URL: http://dataliberation.blogspot.com/2009/09/welcome-to-data-liberation-front.html

3 comments:

Angry Brady said...

Maybe I'm a complete dunce, but when It is stated, "liberated from Google", This of course means if one completely stops using all Google products, correct??
And when it says 'liberated' does this mean totally?? No more storage of past user production?? I'm a bit suspicious myself considering that after 'liberating' my Gmail account several months ago and receiving ALL of my past emails all the way back to early 2007, and then deleting them, I continue to get them picked up by my now mail program! I thought Google's retention policy was only 18-24 months???

Slartibartfarst said...

This post discusses Google's approach to Gmail data portability and zero "lock-in". Brilliant. This is one of the main reasons I like using Gmail and Google's other free services. They don't try to lock you in. It's YOUR data - e.g., they even make it easy for you to pack up and migrate your Google blogs to some other system.

It reminded me of my recent experience with migrating my NZ mobile phone number from Vodafone to the much cheaper - by up to 50% - 2degrees mobile network service.

The number was migrated *unchanged* in less than 24 hrs. That is, it included the Vodafone "021" network prefix. (I had thought I would at least be obliged to have that changed to 2degrees' "022" network prefix, but no.)

I never thought I'd see this - NZ government operating in the consumer interests despite the might of the telco industry lobbyists. (Money talks.) Yes, the NZ government (Commerce Commission) have - albeit belatedly - forced telcos to provide number portability. Thus, one's phone number has become one's property. Previously, it wasn't.

"Lock-in" was a term taught to me in ICL sales training in the '70s as being customer "lock in" - a powerful tool of the IT and telecomms industry. It makes the customer dependent on the service/product supplier. It was thus with Vodafone. Leave the supplier - lose your number!

However, it is still the same with default email addresses provided by ISPs which is why I never use/publish my email addresses with those organisations.

My email is Gmail, and I am not locked into it. I shall stick with it because Google provides a compellingly attractive set of associated services that makes any other service pale into insignificance by comparison.

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