Lost in all the buzz around Google+ is an important new feature rolled out alongside it that makes it way easier to take all your data out of Google. It is called, appropriately enough, Google Takeout. It’s got it’s own separate site and is also part of settings within Google+. In settings, you click on “Data Liberation” and then you are given the option to download all of your profile data, stream data, photos from Picassa, Buzz data, Circles and Contacts.
The Data Liberation group inside Google has long been making personal data portable, but up until now it’s been a clunky process involving APIs and going to each Google service separately to get it. With Takeout, all your Google data across its services is available in one place. You can download it and do what you want with it. (Although downloading it does not erase it from Google’s servers).
I downloaded all of my Buzz updates, just for fun, and it came in a 17.5 MB file. When I unzipped it, it was a folder filled with HTML documents—one for each Buzz update. I am not sure what I would do with that data, but it’s nice to know I can get it all. The contacts are probably more useful, and come in a more handy .vcf file which can be imported into other address books.
Data portability is a big battleground between Google and Facebook. And Google is winning right now with Takeout in terms of paying more than lip service to the concept. Facebook also allows you to download a zip file of your photos, friend lists, messages, and wall posts, but it is not in a format third party sites can use. So it’s not really free. Not that 99 percent of people would ever even want to do any of this. But it’s like the Data Liberation folks say in the video below: if you know you can take your data out, you might feel more comfortable about putting it in.