Google Goes for Open Data Migration Approach

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-07-18 Print this article Print

This is not the first time Google has been down this road with Facebook. Late last year, Facebook blocked Gmail users from exporting their Facebook contact info to Gmail.

However, Facebook users could export their Gmail contacts to populate their accounts on the social network. Google tried to block this move, but Facebook worked around it.

In an informal chat session conducted with journalists via Google+ Hangouts group video chat application July 15, Fitzpatrick said he and his team intentionally launched Google Takeout the same day as the Google+ field test launch because they want users to know that Google is going to respect their data.

Fitzpatrick said Google doesn't want to create another way to lock users in on the Web, freeing them up to try a competing product or create a backup copy for themselves.

He declined to mention Facebook by name during the chat, though he did say that his Front and Takeout service is designed to ensure Google's own innovation and implied Facebook locks people in to keep users ensconced in the service's network.

"Our thought is, we don't want to create another way of locking users in on the Web," Fitzpatrick said. "The more you lock your users in, the less hard you have to work to keep them."

He then added a cautionary tale regarding where Facebook is going wrong, again without mentioning Facebook by name:

If someone is hot on your tail in innovation and your product, the only way to keep ahead of them is to continue innovating, because if you lock your users in and stop developing the product, what you're going to find is that there is some startup out there or some other company that really wants these users' business and they're going to work really hard to come up with a product that is super-innovative or better than yours and eventually your users will leave.

Conversely, Fitzpatrick believes the easier a company makes it for users to leave a Web service with their data intact, the more comfortable they will feel staying.

It's early days for Google+, so it's too early to say whether he is right, but it's certainly the flip side to the approach Facebook has taken.


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