Data Portability: What it is and Why it Rocks

Written by Brandon on November 14, 2012

Posted in Form Hacks

Data portability. It’s a concept that you are exposed to every day and may not even know it. You may be asking yourself right now, “What the heck is data portability?” Well, according to the Wikipedia article: “Data portability is the ability for people to reuse their data across interoperable applications.” While that might sound like a bunch of techno mumbo jumbo to you, it’s a wonderful feature that is being used more every day. Let me break it down for you a bit:

What Data Portability Really Means
Data portability is the idea that the data you generate on an application, such as a website or software product, should be able to be downloaded in a format that is open and that will work with other applications. Data is what drives most applications, and most of that data is generated by the users. When you use an application, you are contributing your data to make that application more useful for yourself and/or other people. However, when you need the data for your own use, data portability makes it easy to download and share whatever you need. For example, you know that annoying process of re-adding phone numbers to your new smartphone? Some data portable services allow easy transfers of this information to another device.

Why Data Portability Matters
Unfortunately, not all applications make it easy for users to download their data. Some applications charge a fee to get to user data, or they use a proprietary data format that only their application can read. As a user, when you decide that you no longer want an application to have access to your data, or you no longer want to use that application to manage your data, you should be able to take your data away from that application and use it for whatever you need.

Who Supports Data Portability
Thankfully, the trend of embracing data portability is on the rise. Many companies provide a way to download your data, and organizations such as the DataPortabilityProject are actively working to encourage the practice.

What that Means for Formstack
At Formstack, we care about data portability and provide a way for users to import and export data in several different open formats such as CSV and RTF, as well as allowing users to delete their submission data from our systems. We also provide an API where technical users can access their data in formats such as JSON and XML. We try to follow the guidelines of the DataPortabilityProject and examples set by groups such as the Data Liberation Front and are always looking for ways to improve the experience that our users have with our products.

Have you ever encountered a situation where you were refused access to your data on an application? How did you address the issue? Let us know in the comments section below!

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