Getting Anything Out Of Gmail?

One of my readers, Malcolm M
I wrote about the competition between Google and Microsoft in my email newsletter this week. (You can read the piece here, but how lame is that? You should be subcribing to it.) I mentioned that because Google didn't sell software it didn't have to lock in its customers with proprietary formats and non-standard protocols the way Microsoft does.

One of my readers, Malcolm Morris, not unreasonably snapped back that he was feeling very locked in by Gmail, and he's got a very good point.He wrote:

Have you noticed that Gmail does not give you a feature to export your contacts? Like you I trust Google. Gmail made it easy for me to import my contacts from Outlook, Yahoo, and a couple of other accounts. But then I tried to back them up - Not possible, and the export feature is not under discussion as far as I can find out. I'm now locked into gmail unless I'm willing to undertake a *really* tedious Cut&Paste exercise to export my contact data. With this and the privacy issues, I think Google's halo has already begun to tarnish a little.

I've been using Gmail since March 18, and I've accumulated 268MB of messages, and I have sometimes idly wondered how I'd get that out of there if I wanted to, too.

I've been vaguely aware of freeware utilities and things that are supposed to export Gmail contacts and messages, and after I got Malcolm's note I did a little poking around (in Google, of course) for a solution. So far I've found . . . not much.

I do think Google should provide export utilities, and I believe that eventually it will. I believe, I believe. (at least as strongly as I believe in Tinkerbell and the tooth fairy) But until the "Do No Evil" guys do me some good all I've got is a mishmash of Linux hacks and Python scripts.

Does anybody have any real, useful answers for this problem?