Google, Microsoft, Facebook & Twitter team up to let users transfer data between apps

Four of today's biggest tech giants — Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter — revealed plans for a new open-source collaboration July 20.

The initiative, dubbed the Data Transfer Project, aims to help users import content like calendars, contacts and photos directly from one online platform to another. Right now, if users want to share content from one service with a separate one — say, to add a photo from Flickr to Instagram — they usually have to download the file from the original source and manually re-upload it to the new platform.

To streamline the process, the Data Transfer Project is developing open-source data sharing tools that convert participating companies' application programming interfaces into a set of standardized data formats. That way, participating online service providers would be able to directly transfer data between one another.

"This open-source project will create new capabilities for direct data portability between participating service providers," Craig Shank, vice president for corporate standards at Microsoft, wrote in a company blog post. "While users can often download copies of their data to a local or online storage location, this project facilitates direct portability of user data between cloud services."

So far, the Data Transfer Project has developed adapters to connect seven different online service providers. These adapters were built using existing and publicly available APIs from Google, Microsoft and Twitter, along with companies like image hosting service SmugMug and to-do list management platform Remember the Milk, Google explained in a blog post.

The founding companies emphasized the Data Transfer Project is designed for broad participation and called on additional companies to sign onto the initiative.

The data transfer platform — which is still in its "early stages," according to a Facebook blog post — isn't available for use yet, but those interested in learning more about the project can download the Data Transfer Project's white paper or view the existing code for the project on GitHub.

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