- Tim Berners-Lee — the inventor of the World Wide Web — is fervently working on decentralizing the internet with a project called Solid.
- Although Solid is a few years old, work has recently ramped up on the secretive project.
- Berners-Lee hopes that Solid will put the power of user data back into the hands of users themselves.
Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web nearly 30 years ago, giving it away for free to the world a few years later. Since then, he has not kept his feelings on what the Web has become a secret – to be clear, he is gravely concerned about its future.
But Berners-Lee isn’t the kind of man to sit back and watch what he created turn into something he never intended. For example, his work with the non-profit World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) occupies much of his time these days, and now he’s making serious headway on a two-years-old project called Solid.
Although Solid is not ready for primetime yet, in a new interview with Vanity Fair, Berners-Lee gives a bit more information on the project and how it could change the way we use the internet.
The intention of Solid is simple: decentralize the Web again so that it is controlled by users rather than corporations. Solid is an open source coding project which anyone can join and contribute code or ideas.
“There are people working in the lab trying to imagine how the Web could be different. How society on the Web could look different. What could happen if we give people privacy and we give people control of their data,” Berners-Lee told Vanity Fair. “We are building a whole eco-system.”
Berners-Lee’s intention with Solid is to take away the power large internet companies have over users’ private data – like Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. – and give it back to the users themselves. With control over their own data, users can then choose how that data is used for profit.
Even though Solid has a few years of work on it, progress has been slow. But now Berners-Lee and his team have hit some sort of milestone, and his work effort has jumped significantly. Those who work closely with him say that his passion for the project rivals his passion for the original development of the Web three decades ago.
But no matter how hard Berners-Lee works on Solid, he can’t help but feel deflated by the current news surrounding the internet. He says that when things happen like the Cambridge Analytica scandal or the allegations of Russian meddling with the 2016 U.S. election, he feels the pain personally.
In his own words, he feels it “actually, physically — my mind and body [become] a different state.”
In a way, perhaps the devastation of seeing his creation abused is what fuels his work on Solid. Hopefully, the project will be ready for unveiling sometime soon, as user privacy and control over personal data is a prominent concern to us all now more than ever.