The Free Internet Project

January 2019

Tm Berners-Lee launches Inrupt and Solid for people to control their personal data

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, announced in October 2018 the launch of a new project called Inrupt to launch a new, open-source technology or platform called "Solid."  Solid is an ecosystem that enables users to store anything, including personal data, in their own Solid POD (personal online data store), which acts as the interface with other sites.  So, instead of "logging in with Facebook" or "logging in with Google," people can "Log in with your own Solid POD."  Through your POD, you can control the permission of how much other sites or apps can "read or write" to your POD.  

The main thrust of the POD approach is that it enables people to control and limit any sharing of their personal data via their single POD, instead of being beholden to websites such as Facebook or an app's user policy.  As the Solid site describes:

  • You give people and your apps permission to read or write to parts of your Solid POD. So whenever you’re opening up a new app, you don’t have to fill out your details ever again: they are read from your POD with your permission. Things saved through one app are available in another: you never have to sync, because your data stays with you.
  • This approach protects your privacy and is also great for developers: they can build cool apps without harvesting massive amounts of data first. Anyone can create an app that leverages what is already there.

Berner-Lee took time off from his position at MIT to work on the commercial venture Inrupt.  Inrupt is meant to facilitate developers to adopt Solid in their programming and develop new programs incorporating the Solid approach.  It's too early to tell how much adoption Solid will get, but it has the potential to radically transform the Internet.  For example, in an interview with Fast Compnay, Berners-Lee gave one example of a new home assistant that protects people's privacy, instead of tracking their every word:  "one idea Berners-Lee is currently working on is a way to create a decentralized version of Alexa, Amazon’s increasingly ubiquitous digital assistant. He calls it Charlie. Unlike with Alexa, on Charlie people would own all their data. That means they could trust Charlie with, for example, health records, children’s school events, or financial records. That is the kind of machine Berners-Lee hopes will spring up all over Solid to flip the power dynamics of the web from corporation to individuals."