Did Facebook Just Join Google's Data Liberation Front?

By Nick O'Neill Comment

David-Recordon-Facebook-AllFacebook-PhotoFacebook’s big announcement yesterday included news that you can download all your personal information from Facebook. This is similar to how Google Apps like Gmail work, and it is an important step for Facebook. I remember Facebook’s Dave Morin arguing with Plaxo’s Joseph Smarr at Dave McClure’s Graphing Social in 2007. Facebook was clearly the new “walled garden” of the Internet, and Joseph’s pleas to open up Facebook user data were ignored. Facebook is now opening up in a big way, and joins Google in making sure you can export and keep personal data.

Facebook’s personal information download product is slick. It creates a mini website on your own computer where you can click through, view and access all your profile data, messages, pictures, etc. Check out the demo below.

David Recordon, in the video above, joined Facebook to lead its open source software initiatives. David Recordon is on stage with Mark Zuckerberg for the announcement not just cause he can program, but because he is impacting Facebook with his open source style philosophy. Open source software advocates love data portability. Software should be free, and so should your data!

Data portability at Facebook means you have the ability to take your information with you if you quit Facebook.

Google’s Data Liberation Front

Google-Data-Liberation-Front-LogoGoogle makes a big push to allow “data export options.” Google has a team called the “Data Liberation Front.” Their job is to make sure all Google web applications make it easy for you to export and keep your data. If you spend years sending email with Gmail or working with photos on Picasa, you should be able to easily get that information out of Google.

Here is an excerpt from Google’s Data Liberation Front Site:

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 to move data in and out.

People usually don’t look to see if they can get their data out of a product until they decide one day that they want to leave For this reason, we always encourage people to ask these three questions before starting to use a product that will store their data:

  1. Can I get my data out at all?
  2. How much is it going to cost to get my data out?
  3. How much of my time is it going to take to get my data out?

The ideal answers to these questions are:

  1. Yes.
  2. Nothing more than I’m already paying.
  3. As little as possible.

What is the future of Facebook’s “Download Your Information”?

This is part of a larger trend where it is becoming easier and easier to download massive amounts of you and your friends data from the services that aggregate it. I reported in Jan 2009 on semiconductor company AMD’s “Fusion Media Explorer” desktop Facebook app that provides one click functionality to download all of your friends photos from Facebook- and it happens scary fast.

I’m sure hacker’s are salivating at this new attack vector to your personal data. And I expect strong innovation from start ups seeking to use this data. Above all, it will be interesting to see how far Google and Facebook push this “please, take your data with you” marketing angle – and how consumers react.