Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

The Data Liberation Front – being not evil

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-09-15

The Data Liberation Front ( is now public – a part of Google outside the domain (along with which seeks and funds good ideas mainly in renewable energy and health).

The DLF aims to make it easy to both import and export YOUR data to and from the Google Cloud.

This is important – and you’ve got to love the name, which Google admit is a homage to the Life of Brian by Monty Python.

So many cloud companies out there that claim property rights on user-generated content, (just think of the facebook shenanigans a little while back), and it’s good to see one of the heavyweights pushing the line that cloud users own their data, and should be able to move it around the cloud, between service providers, between the cloud and inhouse storage, avoiding the "when you’ve got them by their data, their product loyalty will follow" business model.

I’ve actually been to product presentations where the service provider admitted that there was never going to be an open interface to dump data from their offerings, even though a specific dialect of XML exists for the problem domain, and their product obviously uses it internally.  It was obvious to me that they were following the "data as hostage" line, jacking up prices, and gradually using the data provided by even paying customers to compete with those customers.  The guy with the chequebook realized this at about the same time as he realized my olde in-house application (well over a decade old) already provided most of the data structures the service providers thought of as a bleeding-edge product differentiator.

You can just imagine how important this will be when Google Voice goes into full worldwide release (can’t wait – see the overview video – it’ll lower the bar for you switching telcos too), although businesses probably be more exited about databases such as AppEngine using a simple command line: download_data --config_file=config --filename=filename --kind=kind app-directory.

(Hmmm…. thinking about what would happen if public sector information was that easy to extract and load up into your own mashed database).

So whether you are an individual, or a business, with important information in the cloud, it’s time to give Google a round of applause for still trying to live up to their "don’t be evil" motto and raising the bar (whether benevolent philosophy or canny marketing or a mix, I don’t care), in much the same way that fans of Microsoft should thank the open source community for putting price and innovation pressure on the Redmond Mordor.


One Response to “The Data Liberation Front – being not evil”

  1. Yes. It would be great if all public online data was made available in a small number of standard formats. Then the people and companies are good at searching data could take a shot at doing so then make the searchable data available to the public.

    I think it really is that simple and I would be interested to find out what makes so many government departments spend time and money implementing CMSes rather than make their data available in a simple format.

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