Article development led by
Want to keep your users?
Just make it easy for them to leave.
By BRian W. fitzPatRicK anD JJ LuecK
eNgINeerS eMPLoy MaNy different tactics to focus on the
user when writing software: for example, listening
to user feedback, fixing bugs, and adding features
that their users are clamoring for. Since Web-based
services have made it easier for users to move to new
applications, it is becoming even more important
to focus on building and retaining user trust. We
have found that an incredibly effective—although
certainly counterintuitive—way to earn and maintain
user trust is to make it easy for users to leave your
product with their data in tow. This not only prevents
lock-in and engenders trust, but also forces your
team to innovate and compete on technical merit.
We call this data liberation.
Until recently, users rarely asked
whether they could quickly and easily get their data out before they put
reams of personal information into a
new Internet service. They were more
likely to ask questions such as: “Are
my friends using the service?” “How
reliable is it?” and “What are the odds
that the company providing the service
is going to be around in six months or
a year?” Users are starting to realize,
however, that as they store more of
their personal data in services that are
not physically accessible, they run the
risk of losing vast swaths of their online legacy if they do not have a means
of removing their data.
It is typically a lot easier for software
engineers to pull data out of a service
that they use than it is for regular us-