Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee wants to make the Internet safe again – and he wants to do that with his company Inrupt, which has now introduced Solid, a decentralized system for storing and exchanging personal data. We take a look at the project.
Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet in 1989 and made it available worldwide a few years later. The digital world has opened up many possibilities for us. But over the past decades we have also increasingly lost control over our data.
Berners-Lee wants to do something about this. Originally, he had the desire to make the Internet a productive place for everyone around the world.
But as we know, the digital world today is dominated by large corporations such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. These companies collect our data and influence what content we see on the Internet, for example in the form of personalized advertisements.
This is the business model of Facebook, for example. The company sells advertising space based on our personal data to customers who want to market and advertise products digitally.
Inrupt: With this platform, Berners-Lee wants to make the Internet safe again
So Berners-Lee wants to make the Internet safe again. In 2016 he presented his open source project Solid. One year later he founded the start-up Inrupt.
With his company, the Internet inventor wants to develop his Solid technology until a marketable product is created.
And Berners-Lee has already reported initial successes: Inrupt has developed a new Enterprise Solid Server (ESS) that enables government agencies, businesses and other large organizations to use solid technology.
As already mentioned, Solid is a decentralized open source project that allows personal data to be stored in so-called “personal online data stores” (pods).
The data can be distributed to several pods, so that, for example, address and payment information can be stored separately. Users can then share this data with other websites via an interface.
Berners-Lee says it developed the technology in collaboration with the UK National Health Service and the administration of the Belgian region of Flanders, among others.
Berners-Lee fights against data silos
But why can we use the Enterprise Solid Server at all? In a blog post, Berners-Lee criticizes that user data today is stored in separate data silos to which only certain user groups have access.
According to the Internet inventor, the data contained in these silos cannot be meaningfully linked. The silo operators would not be interested in sharing it with each other.
At the same time, this data is used by the silo in question, which, according to Berners-Lee, leads to “increasing, very reasonable public skepticism” about how personal data is misused. This is why we are also struggling with increasingly complex data protection rules.
With Solid, Berners-Lee wants to initiate a course correction, from which companies and private individuals should benefit equally. Users should finally regain the control to decide to whom they make their data available. This is not easily possible in the current World Wide Web.
Inrupt works on a decentralized World Wide Web
In summary, Inrupt is working on a decentralized World Wide Web where users retain complete control over their data.
In early 2020, the company also expanded its development team to include security expert Davi Ottenheimer as Vice President of Digital Ethics and Trust, Osmar Olivo as Product Manager, Emmet Townsend as Engineer and Sarven Capadisli as Chief Technology Officer.