Monday, September 14, 2009

Introducing DataLiberation.org: Liberate your data!



Imagine you want to move out of your apartment. When you ask your landlord about the terms of your previous lease, he says that you are free to leave at any time; however, you cannot take all of your things with you - not your photos, your keepsakes, or your clothing. If you're like most people, a restriction like this may cause you to rethink moving altogether. Not only is this a bad situation for you as the tenant, but it's also detrimental to the housing industry as a whole, which no longer has incentive to build better apartments at all.

Although this may seem like a strange analogy, this pretty accurately describes the situation my team, Google's Data Liberation Front, is working hard to combat from an engineering perspective. We're a small team of Google Chicago engineers (named after a Monty Python skit about the Judean People's Front) 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. Our goal is to "liberate" data so that consumers and businesses using Google products always have a choice when it comes to the technology they use.

What does product liberation look like? Said simply, a liberated product is one which has built-in features that make it easy (and free) to remove your data from the product in the event that you'd like to take it elsewhere.

At the heart of this lies our strong commitment to an open web run on open standards. 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. When your users are locked in, there's a strong temptation to be complacent and focus less on making your product better.

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. 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. You can think of this as a long-term strategy to retain loyal users, rather than the short-term strategy of making it hard for people to leave.

We've already liberated over half of all Google products, from our popular blogging platform Blogger, to our email service Gmail, and Google developer tools including App Engine. In the upcoming months, we also plan to liberate Google Sites and Google Docs (batch-export).

Feel free to take a deeper look into product liberation at dataliberation.org, a website we're launching today which is dedicated to explaining the Data Liberation Front and the products we've liberated.

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.

15 comments:

DeFirmo said...

Great job! It will take a while until some companies realise that, since there is no fences, there is no need to escape, just stay.
While they build "digital prisons", the customers will have the natural impuse to find a one way out...

Cheers
Mario

Mike said...

This is one of the reasons I love Google. Keep innovating!

Karl Fogel said...

Bravi, bravi! This is exactly the sort of strong statement that would lead me to feel safer hosting my data at Google (and I do, more and more).

Berin M. Szoka said...

We at the The Technology Liberation Front heartily agree with our Data Liberation Front comrades that users should be fully empowered to switch from one service to another online. This kind of competition is clearly the best protection for consumers in the Digital Age.

Making switching easy should assuage not just antitrust concerns, but also concerns about how much privacy or security each web service offers to its users, no matter how big its market share: If you don't like what a service offers, just take your data and leave! Who needs the government micro-managing the Internet when users have that kind of control?

Viva la (Technology) Revolution!

haggis said...

Awesome work breaking down the barriers guys.

ps: SPLITTERS!!!

Mauricio 暗い騎士 said...

genius, I think a world where I can make choices on arguments o personal likes and dislikes rather than practical pressures it's a better world.... Thanks for letting people choose weather to stay with you or to move, that shows you care about users

Jonathan Betz said...

This is a great move, and definitely continues a great Google tradition of openness. When can we expect data liberation to come to AdWords, specifically by changing the API Terms so that AdWords data can be automatically ported to Yahoo & MSN?

typographica said...

God, I'd LOVE to see batch-IMPORT for Google Docs. The current apps for the mac suck - it's impossible to upload more than 1 file at a time, you can't upload PDFs, many other problems. I know a dozen people who would switch to google docs tomorrow if they could upload the many dozens (or hundreds) of docs in their documents folder all at once.

Postrodent said...

Thanks guys. This is a great idea, and one that significantly empowers the users of Google services. I like the cloud, but I also like having a hip flask.

Steven said...

Very cool to see Google promoting this. Supporting data portability will go a long way in convincing privacy nuts like myself to continue using Google products.

Sean Gallagher said...

What about Google Analytics, still can't import any data into there and getting it out is a pain - specifically trying to use the API to display the data on your own site (it's rather difficult to do). This should be cleaned up and addressed.

Umberto said...

wow, great idea guys! this is why i choose google for all his servicies :)

satyakaran said...

Great point - open web open standard Its Google.

kiran said...

its ideas like data liberation, which google propogates, thats truly makes us believe Google does no evil.

sathishraja said...

wow!!!!!!!nice idea!!!!Hats off guys.....always innovating...but i need to know one thing will u keep all the datas secretly na....no chance of hacking na....:)