Rob Pegoraro at The Washington Post reported today on Facebook’s announcement that it will offer users a way to download all of the information they’ve uploaded to the service. The move is an implicit response to critics who complain about social media services that lock users in by preventing them from recovering their data.
Based on Facebook’s announcement, it looks like Facebook is offering a particularly easy-to-use portability feature. But Facebook isn’t alone in offering this functionality — industry leaders like Microsoft and Google have been focused on data portability for years.
What Facebook’s announcement leaves out is that, in the data portability world, it takes two to tango. For portability to work in the long run, the various services will need to work together to develop standards that allow data exported from one service to be imported just as easily into another. The members of the DataPortability Project — which include Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and MySpace — are working toward that goal, and it will be interesting to see how that work develops. But in the meantime, Facebook’s new feature offers a promising glimpse of new functionality that may come out of the standards process.