Internet inventor aims to revolutionise web 2.0

Written by Peter Walker

The man widely regarded as having invented the internet is looking to do it all again, but this time putting you in control.

Tim Berners-Lee launched inrupt late last month, which is the first iteration of the decentralised web, a concept he has been discussing for several years and working on now for several months.

With partner and co-founder John Bruce - who built Resilient, a security platform bought by IBM - the startup is backed by Glasswing Ventures and built on a platform called ‘Solid’.

Solid lets users create, manage and secure their own personal online data store (POD) – and then decide which companies’ websites and apps have access to it.

In the launch statement, Berners-Lee stated that he has always believed the web is for everyone and has fought fiercely to protect it.

“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,” he commented.

“Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible - and necessary. This is why I have, over recent years, been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web.”

Solid is built using the existing web and gives many opportunities for developers. “I see multiple market possibilities, including Solid apps and Solid data storage,” added Berners-Lee.

Will Watling, principal consultant at Altus Consulting, commented that the concept of ‘client’ data has always been at the heart of financial services, as well as the explosion in social media.

“The big question I’d like answered though, is what is ‘my data?’ - is it data I enter onto a user profile, or is it the user tracking data about what pages I’ve viewed, who my friends are, which posts I’ve liked? - or data that’s created by a service about my usage of the service?”

Watling stated that while he was happy with exchanging data for certain services, like using GPS-powered maps, or getting better shopping recommendations, what he would like is “a single repository of all my important data that I can then choose to share with a particular organisation or individual to complete certain tasks and perhaps only for certain times”.

He added: “It would be sensible for my accountant to have my tax return info to complete my tax return once a user controlled set of fields becomes complete, various comparison apps to see my utility spending so they can auto switch me to a better deal, any medical practioner or emergency service to have full access to ‘my’ medical record – perhaps Solid will enable such a digital passport, in which case I’d welcome it.”

Fellow Altus principal consultant Michael James agreed that the inrupt plan has certain synergies with the UK government’s plans for a ‘digital passport’, which have been under gradual development for several years.

“There where standards created for that in 2010 – I wonder whether Berners-Lee has the weight to carry it off in a wide-ranging scale to let it take off, but add the security so that you have the comfort that your data is safe,” he added.