The Web Is Broken, So Its Founder Is Taking Another Stab at It

English computer scientist Tim Berners Lee

English computer scientist Tim Berners Lee Lionel Cironneau/AP File Photo

Tim Berners-Lee believes people should control their own data.

The founder of the World Wide Web thinks it’s broken and has a plan to fix it.

Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the web in 1989, announced a new project today that he hopes will radically change his creation, by giving people full control over their data.

The open-source software is called Solid. It allows developers to create decentralized apps that run on data that its users fully own. If Solid becomes widely adopted, then all your apps could talk to each other using the same set of data, which you and only you control.

A screenshot from Fast Company showing one app that Berners-Lee built on Solid is “like a mashup of Google Drive, Microsoft Outlook, Slack, Spotify, and WhatsApp,” writes Katrina Brooker.

Berners-Lee also announced the launch of a company called Inrupt, an obvious gesture to the Silicon Valley cliché “disrupt,” but which sounds a bit closer to “erupt.” Its goal is “to provide commercial energy and an ecosystem to help protect the integrity and quality of the new web built on Solid,” writes Berners-Lee—which is to say, it will be a company that provides resources to the theoretically free innovation happening over at Solid.

The new project is a clear rebuke of the tech giants whose opaque use of personal data is core to their businesses. Facebook’s notorious grip follows people around the web, even if they’ve signed out or have actually deleted their accounts, and Google’s Android phones track people’s movements, far beyond just their coordinates.

Indeed, Berners-Lee’s antipathy to centralized tech control goes way back. In 1998 he said, “The decision to make the Web an open system was necessary for it to be universal. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.”

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