“The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.” – Tim Berners-Lee
In 2018, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, publicised his dismay of how the web was being used compared to his initial vision for it. Having a worldwide platform for voters to discuss Trump vs Clinton? Good. Russia tempering with votes skewing the results. Obviously bad. This was some way off the place Berners-Lee imagined, a collaborative place where everyone could not only read, but write as well.
Reading data is fine but writing data is a whole other story. In order to prevent everyone writing whatever they like, a certain level of permissions and gatekeeping needs to exist; who exactly can do what to the data.
These original concepts were lost as the web evolved and Berners-Lee and others are wrestling to take them back.
Solid (or Social Linked Data) is a project aimed at decentralising identity and data management. The idea is that you own your data, not a conglomerate, and you choose which applications and services see what data. Everyone has tons and tons of data; personal information, videos and photos, your Strava history, meetings. In Berners-Lee’s world, you would store these in a Solid POD (or Personal Online Datastore). As you own this POD, you can move it wherever you like, whenever you like.
Applications would also read from the POD, meaning you wouldn’t have to sign up for an application in the traditional way you do it today – your username would be public and the app pulls in the information straight from your POD. No more, ‘Sign in with Twitter’. There’s also no limit on the data types that your store in your POD; literally anything can go in there and the POD acts as your own personal, private website and you only expose the data you want to publicise. You can, as well, have more than one POD.
The core focus of Solid is to help facilitate the sharing of information whilst keeping your private data private and the associated POD gives you the ability to prove that you are who you say you are, instead of replying on any third party service.
All sounds great. But what’s the real-world use case? How can businesses use this service and harness the full potential of Solid? Shopping preferences? Past holidays? How many steps have I done today?
Let me know in the comments!