Google's new Data Liberation Front is designed to help you liberate your data from any Google service with as little pain as possible so you're not locked into Gmail, for example, just because all your old email is there.
It's easy to fall in love with a great service and completely forget about the importance of controlling your own data. Data Liberation Front aims to keep data free so you can use any service you want—ideally because you like it, not because you feel trapped there. From the Google Public Policy blog:
Imagine you want to move out of your apartment. When you ask your landlord about the terms of your previous lease, he says that you are free to leave at any time; however, you cannot take all of your things with you - not your photos, your keepsakes, or your clothing. If you're like most people, a restriction like this may cause you to rethink moving altogether. Not only is this a bad situation for you as the tenant, but it's also detrimental to the housing industry as a whole, which no longer has incentive to build better apartments at all.
Although this may seem like a strange analogy, this pretty accurately describes the situation my team, Google's Data Liberation Front, is working hard to combat from an engineering perspective. We're a small team of Google Chicago engineers (named after a Monty Python skit about the Judean People's Front) that aims to make it easy for our users to transfer their personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and export functions. Our goal is to "liberate" data so that consumers and businesses using Google products always have a choice when it comes to the technology they use.
Right now the site demonstrates the easiest way to liberate your data from Google services ranging from Blogger and Calendar to Gmail, Reader, and YouTube. The site isn't just about how to escape from Google services, though. It also details how to bring your data to Google apps from other web services.
Even though most people don't give it all that much thought, data lock-in is a serious problem—it's why we rounded up several free tools to back up your online accounts just last month. Google's apps aren't perfect, but hopefully this initiative will improve their data export capabilities as well as set a nice example for other companies.