Google's Data Liberation Front enables data portability. This is of particular importance for the Google Apps enterprise team, which is trying to make it easier for users to move from their existing platforms to Google's cloud computing applications. Google is working to let business users export entire Google Sites wikis as HTML with microformats, and to let users select multiple Docs files and export them in OpenOffice.org, HTML or Microsoft formats.
While Google's Data
Liberation Front Website
is intended to educate consumers about how they
can move data to and from Google applications such as Gmail and Blogger, it
will be worth watching the effect the effort will have on Google Apps.
The Data Liberation Front consists of a special team of six Google engineers
whose goal is to help casual users and business professionals move their
personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and
Such practices are known in the high-tech industry as data portability
; this has taken on a heady importance in an age
when users desire to shuttle the profile data and other content they create to
and from social networks at will.
Data portability has a particular importance for the Google Apps enterprise
team, which is trying to make it easier for users to move from their existing
platforms to Google's cloud computing applications.
This team doesn't want to repeat some of the practices that Microsoft, IBM
and other collaboration providers have committed to by keeping data locked into
the products with which it was created. This creates dissent and resentment
among customers who feel trapped by vendors' products.
In that vein of openness, Google
sees a rich opportunity, according to Engineering
Manager Brian Fitzpatrick of the Data Liberation Front.
"Users have never been locked into Google search," Fitzpatrick
told eWEEK Sept. 15. "It's very easy to switch, you just click somewhere
else. That's served us very well and we think that doing that with the rest of
our products will serve us well ... If you get to a point where users are
locked in, whether you do it on purpose or not, I think you've become
Fitzpatrick said the Data Liberation Front Website was created as a central
information depot to make users more aware of the many ways they can move data
to and from Google's Web services. "We found we had a big discovery
problem. Some people just didn't know that they could use IMAP and POP
for Gmail, etc."
For example, Google on Aug. 19 turned on a capability for moving users from Hotmail, Yahoo and other Web mail accounts to
To illustrate this, Fitzpatrick explained how users can move their
data from Yahoo Mail to Gmail in this blog post.
The Data Liberation Front Website has this type of useful information in
spades; it's a veritable how-to list for how to move data in and out of various
Google products, such as Google AdWords, the Chrome Web browser and the Google Health
Google has been gradually making it possible for Google Apps business users
to move data in and out of Google Calendar and Google Docs,
to "liberate" Google Sites and enable users to do batch exports of
files from Google Docs.
Specifically, Fitzpatrick and his team are working to let business users
export their entire Sites wikis as HTML with microformats. Users would be able
to take and drop the wiki into an Apache Web server.
For Docs, Google is working to let users select multiple Docs files and
export them in OpenOffice, HTML or Microsoft formats. Google's servers convert
these files into .zip files, and Apps users can e-mail these payloads to
colleagues for collaboration.
Google no doubt hopes these portability efforts will foster good will among
customers. This is an important part of Google's strategy as it seeks to take
on Microsoft, IBM, Cisco Systems and others
in SAAS (software as a service) collaboration.