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Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee wants to give us control over our personal data

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has announced that he has put most of his work on hold to develop a way for web users to regain control of their personal data.

The concept, developed for the first time at MIT, is known as Solid. A Solid POD is in fact a safe repository for all our personal data, and from there we can choose which access we provide to other companies and apps …

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Within the Solid ecosystem you determine where you store your data. Photos that you create, comments you write, contacts in your address book, calendar appointments, how many miles you travel each day from your fitness tracker … they are all stored in your Solid POD. This Solid POD can be at home or at your workplace, or with an online Solid POD provider of your choice. Because you have your data, you can move it at any time without interrupting the service.

You give people and your apps permission to write to parts of your Solid POD. So when you open a new app, you never have to enter your details again: they come from your POD with your permission. Things stored via one app are available in another: you never have to synchronize because your data stays with you.

This approach protects your privacy and is also great for developers: they can build cool apps without first collecting huge amounts of data. Anyone can create an app that uses what aly is there.

In essence, you have your own personal APIs for controlled access to your data. Your Solid POD would also act as a login for websites, replacing items such as logging in with Facebook or Twitter, giving you more control over the shared data.

Berners-Lee shared the news in a blog on the weekend.

Solid is a platform, built using the existing web. It gives each user a choice where data is stored, which specific people and groups have access to certain elements and which apps you use. This allows you, your family and colleagues, to connect and share data with everyone. This allows people to watch the same data with the same apps at the same time.

He acknowledges that making a new standard requires a big push and therefore says that he takes a step back from his existing work.

It will take a lot of effort to build the new Solid platform and encourage broad adoption, but I think we have enough energy to bring the world to a new turning point.

So I took a sabbatical from MIT, reduced my daily involvement with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and established a company called inrupt where I will guide the next phase of the web in a very direct way. Inrupt will be the infrastructure through which Solid can flourish. Its mission is to provide commercial energy and an ecosystem to help protect the integrity and quality of the new web built on Solid.

At some other time I think that the creation of a new standard like this would be a heavy sale – even for someone with the reputation of Berners-Lee. But given the high profile of privacy issues at the moment, I think it really does have a fair chance to take off.

I have registered for an account and will follow it with interest.

Photo: Shutterstock


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