Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, is creating a new open platform called Solid.
“I’ve always believed the web is for everyone,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, in a recent Medium blog.
“The web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas,” he added. “Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible — and necessary.”
A new internet
The web, as Berners-Lee envisaged it, has yet to be seen, but he’s hoping to finish the job with his new start-up, Inrupt, and the technology at the forefront of the business, Solid. The vision behind Inrupt is simple, aligning his consistent view on what the web has always been: to create an open web that belongs to individuals (not big corporations) who then decide which applications and other companies can access that data.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Inrupt. The last year has been the year of “data hacks”, from Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm that exploited Facebook data to target voters for President Trump’s presidential campaign, to the recent PageUp data breach that compromised the details of anyone who’s plugged in their details for a job at Coles, Telstra, Kmart, Aldi, Australia Post, Jetstar and many more.
Internet privacy and security are the largest issues in the digital world. One only has to look at the latest Facebook user data, which shows 64% of 18-29-year-olds readjusting their privacy settings in the last 12 months and 44% of them deleting the Facebook app off their mobile entirely. People are increasingly concerned about their private information belonging to corporations.
So here’s where Solid comes into play. Without getting too technical (although there are plenty of how-to guides being written by Inrupt on how their platform works for eager web developers), every user on the system has a data “pod” that they use to store their information in. It’s a secure file that you can think of as a virtual storage closet.
This pod contains anything you want, such as your photos, medical information, or that screenplay about a sassy robot that find true love you’ve been working on. That pod is stored on your devices and connected to your account, so only you have access to the documents within. You can grant access to selected parts of your pod to other users or websites that can use it various ways, but the information stays with you.
For example, if someone posts a photo of their cat to a Solid-designed social media site, that photo of the cat would only be visible publicly as long as the original person makes it available from their pod. If you posted a reply to that photo, your comment is connected to the original picture but remains in your pod, so you can remove it at any time. This means you always have control over what information of yours is accessible to others, and content you create stays with you, and not on a centralised server used to deliver customised ads or is open to a malicious hack.
There’s a long way to go between the recent announcement of Solid and there being practical, usable social media and internet applications built on it. Developers are only now being given the tools to use to build new web applications, so it will be a while before Solid becomes the new framework of the internet. To be fair though, HTML took a long time to coalesce into what it is today.
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