Tim Berners-Lee – computer scientist and inventor of the World Wide Web – has arguably done more to change modern life than anyone else on the planet.
The web has come a long way since the nineties, when dial-up Internet, comic sans, and phrases like "the info highway" and "surfing the web" were still in common use. But what does Berners-Lee think of his creation in 2018?
"I’ve always believed the web is for everyone. That’s why I and others fight fiercely to protect it," Berners-Lee said himself in an article published on Medium. "The changes we’ve managed to bring have created a better and more connected world. But for all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas."
But don't worry, he has a plan to fix it. In fact, it turns out that Berners-Lee has been very busy working away on a new open-source project called Solid.
As Fast Company explained in an exclusive published over the weekend, Solid will decentralize the web by returning control of personal data to each individual user – and out of the hands of the Internet giants. (You know, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the like.) Solid's intention, according to the website, is to "re-orientate the web to its original vision." That is, "to be a collaborative space for all mankind."
Decentralization and control are the leading values of Solid and Inrupt, a start-up launched Saturday, which will provide the infrastructure that allows Solid to run. It means that developers can create apps run on data owned and controlled entirely by the user, who has complete agency when it comes to deciding how and where to store that data – and, importantly, who to share it with.
This is because every bit of data created or added to the platform will be stored within a Solid pod entirely unique to the user. (Pod stands for personal online data store.) They then decide how to apply that data to their applications and elsewhere on the web.
It's a scheme that's been underway for years, but Berners-Lee has felt increasing pressure to get it off the ground as of late, what with news about political utilization of the public's Facebook data.
"Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible — and necessary," he added.
"I’m incredibly optimistic for this next era of the web."