Nowadays, Google looks like a company moving beyond it’s original mission of managing the internet’s data. With the development of their free software services (Gmail, Google Calendar, Blogger, etc.), Google has revolutionized the way people interact online. Their light, mobile-friendly applications provide standard tools anyone can use to write documents, share pictures, schedule appointments and stay in touch. As computing becomes more mobile, the availability of small, standardized cloud-based applications will become even more important to the public – and Google seems well-positioned in this regard.
However… there is also the issue of portability. A serious criticism of free software programs is this: many of them are proprietary and files generated by these tools often can only be read and edited by that tool. Worse yet, many web-based apps don’t allow users direct access to their own data. (For some of us, that’s kinda hard to live with.) I don’t feel good unless I know where my data is and can manipulate it as I see fit.
This was originally true of many of the Google Data Tools. But then a group of Google developers banded together to form “The Data Liberation Front” and that all changed.
Beginning in June 2009, Google began making data generated by their applications available for download by account users. The “Google Takeout” project was started as a way to give Google users the control over their data they wanted. They started by making available data from Google Buzz, Google Contacts, Google Streams and Picasa Albums. The project shortly added Google Plus and Google Voice to the list of available data. Over the next two years, data from other Google applications was added based on user request.
But it wasn’t until December 2013 that the project was able to make available arguably their most popular and most sensitive data – messages from Gmail accounts. (Seriously, who doesn’t have a gmail account by now?) Now, your emails are no longer stuck on the Google servers.
At this time, the Takeout project supports 14 Google products, ranging from documents stored on Google Drive to events you are tracking on your Google Calendar. Takeout allows users to select the data they would like to have by application, converts it into a single ZIP file and makes it available for download through the user’s Google account.