Friday, October 08, 2010

Facebook adds ability to download your Facebook data

A few years ago I thought it would be really helpful to create a tool that would allow anyone to archive their Facebook account, just in case something happened to it. Think about it... 20 years from now, wouldn't it be interesting to see what was going on in your day-to-day life? And what if Facebook were to start charging fees to access your account or, Lord forbid, to disappear?

Last year we finally released the ArchiveFacebook Firefox add-on which allows you to save to your hard drive your Facebook account, just as it appears in your web browser.

My hope was that this tool would have a limited life span. I wanted it to nudge Facebook into providing a method to download and even transport user data to other social networks. Finally, it looks like Facebook has caved-in.

Coming soon, you will have the option to download a zip file from Facebook that contains all your wall posts, photos, messages, etc. You can browse the contents of the zip file in your browser.

The video below shows how this will work.

I have not yet been given access to the feature, but I will report back later once I've had a chance to use it. I'm not sure if it will be possible to upload the archived data into another social network. My guess is that someone will need to write a program that converts the zip file into an open format that can then be transported.

Thank you to Carlton Northern, Hany SalahEldeen, and others who have put a lot of time into making the numerous and painful modifications to keeping ArchiveFacebook working as Facebook made website changes. It may finally be time for it to retire.

Update on 10-20-2010

I was able to download my entire Facebook account today. It only took a few minutes after I requested the archive that Facebook made it available to me in a 6MB zip file. As you can see below, it's a spartan set of pages with all your Wall posts, photos, messages, etc.:

I scrolled down the very long Wall page and found my very first Wall post dated September 28, 2006 at 9:03 pm from my friend Stacey: "Welcome to the ridiculous! How's Bean? How are you?" According to the Facebook Wikipedia article, this was two days after Facebook had opened to the general public. I guess that makes me an early adopter (for once). wink

One technical problem I ran across: Facebook has mangled the image src attribute (src="../photos%2FProfile%20Pictures%2F514544861521.jpg" should be src="../photos/Profile%20Pictures/514544861521.jpg"), so I couldn't see my Photos in Firefox. I had no problem seeing them in Chrome.