The ‘Decentralized Web’ Gets a Shot in the Arm From Tim Berners-Lee’s New Platform, Solid

‘We’ve reached a critical tipping point’

New startup Intrupt is the company behind the project. Inrupt
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The gauntlet has been thrown.

The same day Facebook announced its latest breach, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who is best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, announced his latest venture, Solid, an open-source platform built to decentralize the web.

As it stands, the web runs like an app on the internet to provide an interface for end users. A decentralized web, on the other hand, uses peer-to-peer communication—like one smartphone to another—to allow users to store and exchange information without an intermediary like Facebook, Google or Amazon.

In a blog post, Berners-Lee said he has taken sabbatical from MIT and reduced his daily involvement with the standards organization the World Wide Web Consortium to focus on his new startup, Inrupt, which is the company behind Solid.

Berners-Lee said Solid restores the balance of power on the web by giving individuals complete control over their data rather than “[handing] over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value.”

Solid allows users to do so by creating, managing and securing their own personal online data stores, or PODs. Per the Solid website, users can think of PODs as similar to their own private websites, except that their data interoperates with all their apps—which means no more filling out forms with personal details for each new app—and the data can be shaped in any way or form.

"People want to have a web they can trust. People want apps that help them do what they want and need to do—without spying on them."
Tim Berners-Lee, founder, Inrupt

“It gives every user a choice about where data is stored, which specific people and groups can access select elements and which apps you use,” he said. “It allows you, your family and colleagues, to link and share data with anyone. It allows people to look at the same data with different apps at the same time.”

It also allows these apps to communicate.

“Imagine if all your current apps talked to each other, collaborating and conceiving ways to enrich and streamline your personal life and business objectives?” Berners-Lee added. “That’s the kind of innovation, intelligence and creativity Solid apps will generate.”

The post also said Solid works across all data formats, which allows users to find insights that were previously impossible.

Per Berners-Lee, personal empowerment through data is fundamental to the success of the future of the web.

Calling it a “critical tipping point,” he added, “People want to have a web they can trust. People want apps that help them do what they want and need to do—without spying on them. Apps that don’t have an ulterior motive of distracting them with propositions to buy this or that. People will pay for this kind of quality and assurance.”

John Bruce, chairman and chief executive of incident response platform IBM Resilient, is co-founder and chief executive of Inrupt.

Bruce and Berners-Lee are in good company, however: Holochain, Blockstack, the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), MaidSafe and Storj are also working on decentralized projects.

“I’m incredibly optimistic for this next era of the web,” Berners-Lee said. “These are very exciting times.”

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.