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On Wednesday, the world's largest social network, Facebook, announced several new features.  One of the biggest: a new "Download Your Information" feature that, as the name hints, gives Facebook users the ability to export and download much of their profile information in a single ZIP file.

It's something that just a year or two ago probably would have been inconceivable. After all, if Facebook controls your content, chances are you won't leave Facebook. But at 500m users and growing, Facebook doesn't seem concerned that freeing user data will lead to a mass exodus.

Will the company's "Download Your Information" feature usher in an age of data portability? Perhaps, but it would be premature to make such a prediction. But even if Facebook’s move doesn’t really create a data portability utopia, it is interesting nonetheless and has numerous implications. Here are the most notable good, bad, and ugly.

The Good

Facebook users will be able to walk away from the social network with something to show for it. Previously, leaving Facebook -- for whatever reason -- meant leaving behind photos and other content. Thanks to Facebook's new feature, however, users can quit the social network without saying goodbye to much of the most desirable content they've added to their profile.

It creates opportunity. Now that Facebook users can export some of their Facebook data, companies, entrepreneurs and developers will have the opportunity to do something with it. You can be sure, for example, that other social networking services will look to enable their members and prospective members to quickly and easily populate their profiles using content in the format Facebook provides it in for download.

The Bad

Not everything is included. Facebook may be permitting the export of important content (photos, messages, etc.), but you apparently can't, for instance, export all of your friends' contact information. In other words, there's a lot to be desired and Facebook certainly isn't giving away the farm.

You can't export Facebook.
Content may be king, but the Facebook experience is her queen. On paper, being able to download your Facebook content seems really useful, but it remains to be seen whether the vast majority of Facebook users will find a use for the content without the accompanying experience.

The Ugly

It's a scammer's dream. Even the most innocuous information can be used for malicious purposes. Information downloaded from a Facebook account, for instance, could be used to crack a password or steal someone's identity. Now that information can be downloaded from Facebook with a few clicks on a button, scammers and hackers may find compromising Facebook accounts to be even more worthwhile than before.

Patricio Robles

Published 8 October, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Tim Aldiss

The key thing for me here is whether a brand that runs an active Facebook page can download and use the whole streams of content that can get created on there. This is gold dust content that it appears is remaining inaccessible and unsearchable as an archive.

almost 6 years ago

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Gabriele Maidecchi

I think it's indeed a good move to put the user at the center of the Facebook experience even more than before. The consequences of this, as you mention, can potentially be ugly, but at least it gives users some more power than they had before, contributing in building Trust for Facebook into users who still didn't feel comfortable sharing their lives through it.

almost 6 years ago

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Myles Winstone

If you have an iPhone, and the Facebook app, you can get round the inability to export friends contact information by using the apps built-in sync function. This syncs together your phone contact book and your Facebook friends list, adding in missing details like email address and profile pics. The downside is that it doesn't sync mobile numbers (or at least I don't think it does).

almost 6 years ago

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Tom Atkinson

That's a pretty bold move by Facebook. Hard to see how they justified it, perhaps they think it is a selling point to enable more signups? For example "Hey it's OK to signup, as you can always export your data later". Or perhaps they want the kudos of being cool and nice and not evil.

almost 6 years ago

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Stacey Garratt

Once I have backed up my boss's account, how do I get it back on? I have the backed up archive, but how do I reinstate it as a profile?

This is extremely upsetting. It's my first day on the job and I'm in deep trouble.

Any help is wildly appreciated.

staceygarratt at yahoo dot com

almost 5 years ago

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