Welcome to the Data Liberation Front

Monday, September 14, 2009 | 8:51 AM


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


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