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July 15, 2011

Google's Data Liberation Front Frees Your +1s

In a new and innovative way to leverage the company's new Hangout feature as part of Google+, Google's Data Liberation Front held a small press briefing with a handful of tech journalists today, walking them through why the company is focused on leveraging open standards and helping users get their data out. Alongside the discussion, engineering manager Brian Fitzpatrick said the company has extended its exports to include the +1s you've made for Web sites - a small bump obviously, but one that demonstrates their seriousness about making getting your data out of Google as easy (if not easier) than it is to get it in.

Without speculating on other company's practices (namely Facebook), Fitzpatrick asked those of us participating if we would recommend a restaurant which locked its doors to prevent us from leaving after we sat down for a meal, or if we would recommend people rent an apartment that demanded it keep your furniture and family photos once you moved. The obvious answer is of course not... and Fitzpatrick said the same should be true for your online content. He recounted how when the Data Liberation Front first started with Blogger, there were some internal concerns at Google that users would leave the platform en masse for WordPress or other solutions, but in fact, they instead regularly downloaded content but kept posting - using the exports as local backup. (This is what I do as well)

Google Takeout Liberates Your Content from Multiple Services

Fitzpatrick pointed to Google Search as an example of not locking in one's data, as users, with many choices, will use the engine and can go to any other when they like. But with many online services, content goes in and doesn't come out. As I've demonstrated with my own personal backup of my Facebook wall and photos, you can get your data out of the social network, but it's possibly not configured very simply to move to another platform altogether. This is a main focus for the Data Liberation Front team, said Fitzpatrick, who said the effort is made to point to XML, Activity Streams and Microformats wherever possible, letting your data be interchangeable within services.

Downloading My +1s is a Mere 25KB.

Now that My +1s are Downloaded, I Can Move them Elsewhere

Lost in much of the coverage of Google+ a few weeks ago, the Data Liberation Front introduced its Google Takeout policy on the same day, making it easy to download data from multiple services and take them elsewhere. This list includes your +1s now, as well as Google Buzz, your Circles and Streams from Google+, and Picasa Web albums. As they mentioned at the time of that launch, if they make it simple for you to get your data out of the company, they have to work harder to keep you in.