Since it was first introduced in 1989, the internet has come a long way, both in good and bad ways. With several communication tools available online, connecting with friends and family on the other side of the world hasn’t been this easy. However, it has taken away something, too — the control over our data.
Our information is everywhere. Once it’s out there, there is very little, if anything, we can do to control how it’s being used or who’s using it. But, the father of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, wants to reinvent how users take back control of their data.
“We’re on a mission to change the way the web works and the way to basically make the web a better place for all of us,” said Berners-Lee on The Telegraph Live.
In an attempt to “fix the web”, Berners-Lee launched a privacy-focused startup, Inrupt. Using the company’s data storage technology called Solid, the tech company changes how data is stored to give you more control.
“Solid is the new way to connect to people and data. It’s an open-source web-based protocol that re-architects the way data is stored and shared,” said Berners-Lee.
With Solid, you put your personal data together into a personal online data store called a “pod”. Any kind of information can be stored in a pod such as websites visited, travel plans, health records, or credit card purchases.
The pod can be hosted on any Pod Provider, or you can host it yourself. Pods hosted on a Solid Server are fully compartmentalized from other Pods. Each one has its own set of data and access rules, and you decide who to share your data with using Solid’s authentication and authorization systems. And, you can also remove access to anyone at any time.
Inrupt was introduced back in November 2020, and the Solid technology is already being used by some large companies like the BBC and the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain.
The company’s business model is based on charging licensing fees for its commercial software, which uses Solid open-source technology. According to The New York Times, Inrupt has raised about $20 million in venture funding.
Getting data back into a user’s hands is very good. But, is it something that will quickly be adopted by everyone, including the tech giants?
Well, users will finally gain control of how they share their data. According to Berners-Lee, Solid will provide a “generic back-end store that works with all apps without modification.” This means developers don’t have to worry about creating back-ends for different apps.
And companies, what will they get out of it? According to Inrupt CEO & Co-founder John Bruce, over the years, he found that a lot of companies were “spending a great deal of time and money collecting and protecting user data.” So, “by moving the point of control of data from the organization to the user everybody wants.” (i.e. money is saved)
“This is just the beginning of how we turn the red web right side up, restore some of its original values, like how we empower everyone to participate in and benefit from a web that serves us all,” said the internet inventor. “The future of the web is a lot bigger than its past.”