by Tyler Durden
via Wikimedia Commons
"For people who want to make sure the Web serves humanity, we
have to concern ourselves with what people are building on top
of it," Tim Berners-Lee
told Vanity Fair last
"I was devastated" he
said while going through a litany of harmful and dangerous
developments of the past three decades of the web.
That's why "the Father of
the World Wide Web" has launched a start-up that intends to end the
....while in the process
letting individuals take back control of their own data.
Tim Berners-Lee's new
online platform and company 'Inrupt'
is being described as a "personal online data store," or pod, where
everything from messages, music, contacts or other personal data
will be stored in one place overseen by the user instead of an array
of platforms and apps run by corporations seeking to profit off
The project seeks
"personal empowerment through data" and aims to "take back" the web,
according to company statements.
The man who created the world wide web by implementing the first
ever successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer
Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the internet in 1989
lamented that his creation has been abused by powerful entities for
everything mass surveillance to fake news to psychological
manipulation to corporations commodifying individuals' information.
But he's long been at work on a new project to take the web back,
described in depth by the business technology magazine
Berners-Lee will launch, 'Inrupt,' a startup that he has been
building, in stealth mode, for the past nine months.
Glasswing Ventures, its mission
is to turbocharge a broader movement afoot, among developers
around the world, to decentralize the web and take back power
from the forces that have profited from centralizing it.
In other words, it's
game on for Facebook, Google, Amazon.
"We have to do it
now," Berners-Lee said of the newly launched project. "It's
a historical moment."
He identified the main
impetus behind his recent announcement that he'll be going on
sabbatical from his research professor post at MIT to work full-time
on the project as the recent revelation that Facebook allowed
political operatives to
gain access to some 50 million
users' private data.
At MIT Berners-Lee has for years led a team on designing and
building a decentralized web platform called 'Solid'
- which will underlie the Inrupt platform.
The Inrupt venture will
serve as users' first access to the
new Solid decentralized web:
If all goes as
planned, Inrupt will be to Solid what Netscape once was for many
first-time users of the web: an easy way in.
And like with
Netscape, Berners-Lee hopes Inrupt will be just the first of
many companies to emerge from Solid.
"I have been
imagining this for a very long time," says Berners-Lee.
As described on the
Inrupt websites the new platform
will allow users to have complete control over their information
'pods' (an acronym for "personal online data store") - it is only
they who will decide whether outside apps and sites will be granted
access to it, and to what extent.
Unlike Facebook or Twitter where all user information
ultimately resides in centralized data centers and servers under
control of the companies, applications on Inrupt will compete
for users based on the services they can offer, and only the users
can grant these apps "views" into their data, making personal data
instantly portable between similar applications.
"The main enhancement
is that the web becomes a collaborative read-write space,
passing control from owners of a server, to the users of that
specification provides this functionality," the Solid website
Visual of the
Inrupt prototype platform
Berners-Lee explained to Fast Company one example currently
under development that could radically changed a popular product
that has been prone to
overstepping privacy boundaries and
For example, one idea
Berners-Lee is currently working on is a way to create a
decentralized version of
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
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.
With the weekend launch
of Inrupt, developers across the globe this week will be invited to
begin building their own decentralized apps through the Inrupt site.
As its popularity grows
the company will move forward to raise more funds, though it's
currently backed by a venture capital firm.
Yet as his latest interview notes,
"his plans could
impact billion-dollar business models that profit off of control
over data. It's not likely that the big powers of the web will
give up control without a fight."
When this major potential
disruptor was noted, Berners-Lee shot back:
"We are not talking
to Facebook and Google about whether or not to introduce a
complete change where all their business models are completely
We are not asking