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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.
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.
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.
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.