Monday, October 19, 2009

Google's Data Liberation Front

In what can be seen as a major win for users of Google's various cloud services, the company has announced a new website called "The Data Liberation Front" dedicated to be the central location for information on how to move your data in and out of Google products.

According to the site, The Data Liberation Front is an engineering team at Google whose singular goal is to make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products. We do this because we believe that you should be able to export any data that you create in (or import into) a product. We help and consult other engineering teams within Google on how to "liberate" their products.

Their mission statement: Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google's products. Our team's goal is to make it easier for them to move data in and out.

The site's creators point out that project was started as an internal engineering team back in 2007. When the team couldn't agree on the name, they came up with "Data Liberation Front" as a homage to The Judean People's Front, the splinter group in Monty Python's Life of Brian that spends most of its time bickering. In addition, the team indicated that they see themselves as being somewhat subversive, not so much within Google, but insofar as it's unusual for a big company to work to make it easier for their customers to leave them.

The site also points out that there shouldn't be an additional charge to export your data. Beyond that, if it takes you many hours to get your data out, it's almost as bad as not being able to get your data out at all. I would also add if your data isn't usable. For example a 1tb text file is (almost) just as bad as not getting your data at all.

The FAQ answers some interesting questions including that of Data Standards saying "We're working to use existing open standards formats wherever possible, and to document how we use those formats in a clear simple manner."

Personally, I applaud this move by Google, lets hope others in the cloud space follow Google's lead.

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