Nerds know that Tim Berners-Lee is a pretty important figure in the technology world. After all, he’s the father of the Internet, responsible for the birth of the World Wide Web as we know it. And he hates what it has become. So he’s taking some action to fix it.
For years now, Berners-Lee has expressed his revulsion at how major corporations have taken what was supposed to be a free environment and placed restrictions on it. He doesn’t like how groups like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have effectively centralised the Internet, or how they control people’s data. So he’s instead working on a new platform and start-up that’s declaring war on Big Tech.
Inrupt is a start-up that Berners-Lee has been working on in stealth for about nine months. He’s even taken a sabbatical from his prestigious position teaching at MIT’s CSAIL labs in order to work full time. And Inrupt will finally launch to the world this week, Berners-Lee told Fast Company in an exclusive interview.
Inrupt is built on the ‘Solid’ platform, something he and others at MIT have been working on for years. Solid is basically designed to be like the early days of the Internet, wild and free. Inrupt will be the way to access it, at least to start. In a demonstration for the piece, he pulled up what looked like a very basic browser page, completely barebones.
Part of an app built for his personal use, it displays his calendar, address book, chats, his music etc. It’s like if you combined Google Drive with Whatsapp, Spotify, and pretty much every piece of cloud storage and online connectivity you use today, all in one place. The difference here is that all the information is under his control.
The basic idea is that each user is assigned a Solid ID and Solid pod when they first come online on the platform that can be hosted wherever you want. Pod here stands for personal data store, which is what it does. Unlike apps like those of Google Drive, where one’s data is stored on the company’s server and therefore subject to their data harvesting. On Solid however, all your data exists in your Solid pod. When an app requests access, Solid will authenticate and then you can choose to give it access to your pod.
Using Solid is how Berners-Lee believes people can escape the data monopoly he feels companies like Google and Facebook is trying to create.
Inrupt then is just a way for developers to build their own apps for the platform. And just like he did with the Internet, Berners-Lee has no plans to make a huge profit. Instead, he’s making the platform open source and plans to tour across the globe over the next few months, tutoring developers on how to build their own decentralized apps using Inrupt.
Of course, Berners-Lee very aware that what he’s trying to do will really upset Big Tech. The thing is, he doesn’t care, and he was very clear about that in the interview.
‘We are not talking to Facebook and Google about whether or not to introduce a complete change where all their business models are completely upended overnight,” he declared. “We are not asking for their permission.’
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