September 29, 2018

DATA IS WEALTH:

Exclusive: Tim Berners-Lee tells us his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web: With an ambitious decentralized platform, the father of the web hopes it's time's up for corporate tech giants like Facebook and Google. (KATRINA BROOKER, 9/29/19, Fast Company)

Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, asked me to come and see a project he has been working on almost as long as the web itself. It's a crisp autumn day in Boston, where Berners-Lee works out of an office above a boxing gym. After politely offering me a cup of coffee, he leads us into a sparse conference room. At one end of a long table is a battered laptop covered with stickers. Here, on this computer, he is working on a plan to radically alter how all of us live and work on the web.

"The intent is world domination," Berners-Lee says with a wry smile. The British-born scientist is known for his dry sense of humor. But in this case, he is not joking.

This week, Berners-Lee will launch, Inrupt, a startup that he has been building, in stealth mode, for the past nine months. Backed by Glasswing Ventures, its mission is to turbocharge a broader movement afoot, among developers around the world, to decentralize the web and take back power from the forces that have profited from centralizing it. In other words, time's up, Facebook, Google, Amazon. For years now, Berners-Lee and other internet activists have been dreaming of a digital utopia where individuals control their own data and the internet remains free and open. But for Berners-Lee, the time for dreaming is over.

"We have to do it now," he says, displaying an intensity and urgency that is uncharacteristic for this soft-spoken academic. "It's a historical moment." Ever since revelations emerged that Facebook had allowed people's data to be misused by political operatives, Berners-Lee has felt an imperative to get this digital idyll into the real world. In a post published this weekend, Berners-Lee explains that he is taking a sabbatical from MIT to work full time on Inrupt. The company will be the first major commercial venture built off of Solid, a decentralized web platform he and others at MIT have spent years building. [...]

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.

Were it possible, this would then allow us to monetize our data and sell it to the businesses for whom it has tremendous value.
Posted by at September 29, 2018 8:17 AM

  

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