Google has unveiled the 'Data Liberation Front' - a project that aims to let web users import and export personal information from Google's online services without a hassle.

Google started widely promoting its Data Liberation Front this week, although the group has been in existence for some time. Already, the DL is working to help you 'liberate' your data from Google's various products; in fact, numerous Google services are already set up for painless exporting, including Gmail, Blogger and Google Reader.

"Said simply, a liberated product is one which has built-in features that make it easy (and free) to remove your data from the product in the event that you'd like to take it elsewhere," Google Data Liberation Engineering Manager Brian Fitzpatrick said in a blog.

The DL said it plans to focus on Google Sites and Google Docs, allowing you to grab your info out of the services with a single batch export. It's set up a new website and Twitter account to let you keep track of its progress.

The low-down on the DL

So why is Google making such a big deal out of letting you move your stuff out of its services?

As the company explains it, the concept is part of Google's push to create an open web with open standards. Certainly, Google's moved in that direction before, with Android,bBut this is a far more pronounced step, with a focus that almost seems to encourage you to pack up and say so long. So what's up?

"We think open is better than closed - not because closed is inherently bad, but because when it's easy for users to leave your product, there's a sense of urgency to improve and innovate in order to keep your users. When your users are locked in, there's a strong temptation to be complacent and focus less on making your product better."

It's other web-based storage and service providers that Google is targetting. Given the trepidation increasingly expressed about cloud-based data storage, making a grand gesture that your data is still yours makes perfect sense from a business perspective.

Just look to this excerpt from Google's Data Liberation announcement.

"We believe that users, not products, own their data and should be able to quickly and easily take that data out of any product without a hassle. We'd rather have loyal users who use Google products because they're innovative, not because they lock users in."

Putting it all together

So is Google using this movement to reinforce certain public images, both for itself and for its competitors? Sure. But in doing that, is it also taking a positive step that'll be beneficial to its users? Absolutely.

Opening up the web and allowing us to easily reclaim our data puts the power in our hands. If that means we have to hear some dramatic talk about a Data Liberation Front and how it's fighting the evil rights-slaying dragons - well, that's one tradeoff that might just be worth our while.

Of course, if they start selling DL t-shirts or referring to themselves as a 'collective', I may have to reconsider.

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