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Solid: 'true data ownership' project led by Tim Berners-Lee

Last Edit: 30/09/18

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, is currently head of a project that aims to enable users take back control of their web application data. Over the past five years, concerns have been growing about how web 'giants' handle users data. Only today, the BBC have reported that a Facebook security breach has led to 50million accounts being attacked, including those of Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Berners-Lee has been residing as the holder of the the founders chair in Computer Science at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), but has taken a nine months hiatus to work on Solid. The office that Tim Berners-Lee is working from is based in Boston Massachusetts, and is backed by Inrupt, a company that was founded by John Bruce and Tim Berners-Lee. The name of the project is derived from "social linked data" and its homepage is currently located at: https://solid.mit.edu.

The Solid homepage states that it will provide: true data ownership that removes user data from web apps; modular design to switch between web apps; will adhere to current W3C standards; and reuses existing data to seamlessly work with current apps. Users can begin to test Solid by visiting https://solid.community/ and creating an account. A beta release of the Solid Application Developer Kit has also been released in September. It should be noted that Solid is a new project, a work in progress, so, as the Solid homepage states "Things may be a little rough around the edges".

A September 2018 blog post from Tim Berners-Lee (https://www.inrupt.com/blog/one-small-step-for-the-web) highlighted the concerns users have about their personal data and about the overreaching power that web platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google are exerting. Berners-Lee stated "I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible - and necessary" and "Solid changes the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value."

Tim Berners-Lee is currently looking for funding to expand his Solid development team. How Solid will turn a profit is unclear at present -- as it obviously wont rely on selling users data to third parties or providing targeted adverts -- but its not surprising that the man who gave the web away for free, is more interested in developing an app for the greater good than to turn a buck.