Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet, is taking on Big Tech – working on a decentralized platform that combines some of Google, Facebook and Twitter’s most popular services, but allowing users full control over their own data. He minces no words about the goal of this new project:
We are not talking to Facebook and Google about whether or not to introduce a complete change where all their business models are completely upended overnight. We are not asking their permission.
The company’s name is Inrupt and the platform they are developing is called Solid. In an article on the website, Berners-Lee explains:
I have, over recent years, been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web.
Solid changes the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. As we’ve all discovered, this hasn’t been in our best interests. Solid is how we evolve the web in order to restore balance – by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way.
Back to the article on Fastcompany.com:
On his screen, there is a simple-looking web page with tabs across the top: Tim’s to-do list, his calendar, chats, address book. He built this app–one of the first on Solid–for his personal use. It is simple, spare. In fact, it’s so plain that, at first glance, it’s hard to see its significance. But to Berners-Lee, this is where the revolution begins. The app, using Solid’s decentralized technology, allows Berners-Lee to access all of his data seamlessly–his calendar, his music library, videos, chat, research. It’s like a mashup of Google Drive, Microsoft Outlook, Slack, Spotify, and WhatsApp.
The difference here is that, on Solid, all the information is under his control. Every bit of data he creates or adds on Solid exists within a Solid pod–which is an acronym for personal online data store. These pods are what give Solid users control over their applications and information on the web. Anyone using the platform will get a Solid identity and Solid pod. This is how people, Berners-Lee says, will take back the power of the web from corporations.
This may be the most serious and promising challenge to Big Tech we have seen. Combined with Gab (get on Gab, get in touch!) and Kim Dotcom’s announced plan for a free speech alternative to Twitter, the days of Big Tech may finally be numbered.
H/t Geenstijl (in Dutch)