Google Data Liberation Front

Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009 8:00 am
William Barnes

Natalie Portman once said: “So this is how democracy dies: to thunderous applause.” It’s how I feel about Google. They are so obviously trying to take over the world, but they do it with such style you just want to cheer them on. The key, I think, is just how easy it would be (theoretically) to do away with them.

Yesterday, Google announced the Data Liberation Front. The goal of this site is to provide easy access to instructions to move your data out of every Google service. You can, for a few examples, download all your email, export your calendars to Yahoo or iCal or Outlook, and move your contact list to another mail or chat client. Data portability has always been a huge concern for me. I switch operating systems, browsers and email clients at the drop of a hat so I always like to know that I’m not locked in. The export capabilities are not new (or unique, it’s all possible with Yahoo and Microsoft as well) but to present it all in one place has an undeniable flair. It’s kind of the internet service equivalent of playing chicken: “Leave the service. I dare you. I’ll even help.”

Google is the least threatening monopoly possible and somehow that just secures their position. Although I will admit I’ve switched to Bing on all my computers. And Yahoo Calendar. And I’m hosting my email on my home server again. And I don’t use Google Docs, iGoogle or Maps anymore. Hmmm… So much for that theory. Luckily for Google, it’s just as easy to get my data back in as it was to leave. Good job.

Offline Gmail

Wednesday, Feb 4, 2009 11:25 am
William Barnes

Gmail has finally added support for Google Gears. This is great if you feel the urge to type an email or need to look something up while stuck in the Moot Court Room. Or if you’re annoyed by the intermittent connectivity in other areas of the school (ever click on a message and have to wait five minutes for it to load?) Gears will overcome that by caching all your email on your computer.

Enable it in Gmail Labs (Settings->Labs->Offline) and then click the new “Offline” link that appears in the upper right of Gmail.