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Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter actually want to make it easier for you to switch services

Published Jul 20th, 2018 2:02PM EDT
Data Transfer Project
Image: Cultura/REX/Shutterstock

It was always harder than it needs to be for the average person to transfer, say, photos between Facebook and Google Photos, what with having to download everything and then re-upload it all again.

Now comes word of a partnership led by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter — specifically, a project announced today around data portability that should make it easier for you to pull out your data and transfer it between apps, essentially making it a heck of a lot easier for you to switch services instead of feeling like you’re locked in by virtue of it being too cumbersome to get your data out.

A white paper published today also makes it clear the idea here is to grow the partnership beyond even these tech giants. “The Data Transfer Project,” reads an abstract of the paper, “extends data portability beyond a user’s ability to download a copy of their data from their service provider, to providing the user the ability to initiate a direct transfer of their data into and out of any participating provider.

“The Data Transfer Project is an open source initiative to encourage participation of as many providers as possible. The DTP will enhance the data portability ecosystem by reducing the infrastructure burden on both providers and users, which should in turn increase the number of services offering portability. The protocols and methodology of the DTP enable direct, service-to-service data transfer with streamlined engineering work.”

In a blog post today, Google says it’s actually been working on this since 2007, when a small group of engineers in its Chicago office formed a team called the Data Liberation Front. In 2011, Google launched a service called Takeout to let users download or transfer copies of their data in a variety of industry-standard formats. Now, they’re hoping even more companies join the open source Data Transfer Project announced today.

The project isn’t ready for the wider public yet, but the use cases already definitely sound tantalizing. “DTP would make things significantly better not only for users but also for the developers building the world’s leading platforms,” according to “Just imagine being able to transfer your biometric data or location history from a service like Google Maps to Foursquare, or your Microsoft Account. Or better yet, imagine being able to move your music from Apple Music to Spotify without going through the hassle of doing things manually.”

That description goes on to note that the data partnership involves using existing APIs and authorization mechanisms to make it so that users can move data from one service to another without having to go through the tedious motions of doing it manually.

The project’s open source code can be found at Google’s blog post notes that its prototype already supports data transfer for products including photos, mail, contacts, calendar, and tasks.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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