Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the concept of the world wide web back in 1989, has announced the first step in his privacy-for-all project, Solid. A Solid server is now available for any organization which wants to begin trialing the platform.
Solid was first announced back in 2018 as a way of giving control of user data to individuals, rather than to online services …
Currently, we all have personal data stored on servers owned by tech giants like Apple, Facebook, and Google. With Solid, all our personal data is stored in a secure repository which we control. That could be our own server at home, or a Solid supplier chosen by us – but the key is that we control our data, and we decide which websites and apps are given access to which elements of it. We can also revoke permissions at any time.
Within the Solid ecosystem, you decide where you store your data. Photos you take, comments you write, contacts in your address book, calendar events, how many miles you run each day from your fitness tracker… they’re all stored in your Solid POD. This Solid POD can be in your house or workplace, or with an online Solid POD provider of your choice. Since you own your data, you’re free to move it at any time, without interruption of service.
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.
Your Solid POD would also act as an alternative to a username and password to login to third-party services.
Berners-Lee said that the issue of privacy was so important that he was stepping back from his work on the web to focus on Solid through a startup called Inrupt. CNET reports that Inrupt has carried out trials of Solid, and now has an enterprise server available for purchase. Pricing has not been disclosed.
Inrupt has been testing its service with the BBC, NatWest Bank and the National Health Service in the UK, and with the Flanders government in recent months. On Monday, the company made its Enterprise Solid Server, the infrastructure that supports the service, available to any interested customer.
“The technologies we’re releasing today are a component of a much-needed course correction for the web,” Berners-Lee said in a statement. “Ultimately, this new foundation of trust and cooperation will lead to entirely new business models that actually benefit users as well.”
As we noted three years ago, the big challenge for Solid will be adoption, both by companies and by individuals – but today at least gets us one step closer.
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