Google to let users download portable file with all their Gmail messages

People can also download all their Google Calendar items

In a major move for data portability, Google will let users download their entire set of Gmail messages in a single file and do the same with their Google Calendar items.

This capability, announced Thursday, is aimed at people who want to create Gmail and Calendar backups or move their data to other email and calendar services. People will also be able to download part of their Gmail inbox and some of their calendar.

"Having access to your data and being able to take it with you is important," wrote Nick Piepmeier, a Google software engineer, in a blog post.

The data portability feature for Gmail will be rolled out over the next month. It's available now for Google Calendar.

The Gmail messages are in the MBOX format, which, according to Google, is supported by many mail clients, including Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird and Apple's Mail program. The Google Calendar items are in the also common ICS iCalendar format.

Google already provides this capability to users of some of its other products, including Blogger, Contacts, Drive, Plus, Voice, Hangouts, YouTube and Picasa Web Albums.

Data portability has been a hot topic for years as proponents have urged providers of consumer Internet services, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and AOL, to make it easy for people to extract from their servers the content they upload, such as blog posts, videos, photos and comments. Keeping data locked in curtails people's flexibility to move from one Web application to another, according to data portability backers.

Over the years, there have been advocacy groups such as the Data Portability Project that have promoted people's ability to reuse their data among interoperable applications, as well as a variety of efforts to create data formatting standards, such as Microformats, to simplify data portability.

Google has a specific team of engineers called the Data Liberation Front, which is tasked with making it possible for people to take their data out of the Google applications they use.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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