from the make-the-web-a-web-again dept.
This week, Berners-Lee will launch Inrupt, a startup that he has been building, in stealth mode, for the past nine months. Backed by Glasswing Ventures, its mission is to turbocharge a broader movement afoot, among developers around the world, to decentralize the web and take back power from the forces that have profited from centralizing it. In other words, it's game on for Facebook, Google, Amazon. For years now, Berners-Lee and other internet activists have been dreaming of a digital utopia where individuals control their own data and the internet remains free and open. But for Berners-Lee, the time for dreaming is over.
"We have to do it now," he says, displaying an intensity and urgency that is uncharacteristic for this soft-spoken academic. "It's a historical moment." Ever since revelations emerged that Facebook had allowed people's data to be misused by political operatives, Berners-Lee has felt an imperative to get this digital idyll into the real world. In a post published this weekend, Berners-Lee explains that he is taking a sabbatical from MIT to work full time on Inrupt. The company will be the first major commercial venture built off of Solid, a decentralized web platform he and others at MIT have spent years building.
If all goes as planned, Inrupt will be to Solid what Netscape once was for many first-time users of the web: an easy way in. And like with Netscape, Berners-Lee hopes Inrupt will be just the first of many companies to emerge from Solid.
[...] [On] Solid, all the information is under his control. Every bit of data he creates or adds on Solid exists within a Solid pod–which is an acronym for personal online data store. These pods are what give Solid users control over their applications and information on the web. Anyone using the platform will get a Solid identity and Solid pod. This is how people, Berners-Lee says, will take back the power of the web from corporations.
How does Solid compare to Tor, I2P, Freenet, IPFS, Diaspora, etc.?
Related: Tim Berners-Lee Proposes an Online Magna Carta
Berners-Lee: World Wide Web is Spy Net
Tim Berners-Lee Just Gave us an Opening to Stop DRM in Web Standards
Sir Tim Berners-Lee Talks about the Web Again
Tim Berners-Lee Approved Web DRM, but W3C Member Organizations Have Two Weeks to Appeal
70+ Internet Luminaries Ring the Alarm on EU Copyright Filtering Proposal
One Year Since the W3C Sold Out the Web with EME
"In an interview with the Guardian, Tim Berners-Lee proposes a bill of rights for the web. His plan is part of a wider initiative, The Web We Want, a campaign for a 'free open and truly global Internet.' Berners-Lee suggests that governments need an increased understanding of technology, and a revisiting of legal issues such as copyright law.
More controversially he proposes removal of US control of IANA claiming "The removal of the explicit link to the US department of commerce is long overdue. The US can't have a global place in the running of something which is so non-national". He sees the web at risk of fragmentation into "national silos" if people do not fight for the web.
There is potential overlap here with Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights , which states,'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.' Would an internet bill of rights be successful in nations where the principles of the UDHR are ignored ?
Given the anarchic evolution of the internet, is it possible or desirable to attempt to control it in any way?"
Speaking at the Decentralized Web Summit conference in San Francisco run by the Internet Archive, the engineer [Inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee] joined other internet notables including "father of the internet" Vint Cerf and Mozilla head Mitchell Baker in discussing how to strengthen the open internet as well as ensure its contents are retained over time.
"The web is already decentralized," Berners-Lee told attendees. "The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one social network, one Twitter for micro-blogging. We don't have a technology problem; we have a social problem."
[...] founder of the Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle: "Edward Snowden showed we've inadvertently built the world's largest surveillance network with the web. We have the ability to change all that."
The conference featured the developers of many tools that aim to retain the internet's decentralized nature, such as Blockstack, Ethereum, Interledger, IPFS and others.
It's not just the World Wide Web, it's the entire internet: your phone reports on your location at all times, apps on it flush contents of your phone to the owners of the app, almost all websites do some sort of tracking (most of them using Google Analytics), e-mail providers happily hand over anything to anyone asking, and the rest is vacuumed up automatically by the NSA.
This week, the chief arbiter of Web standards, Tim Berners-Lee, decided not to exercise his power to extend the development timeline for the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) Web technology standard. The EME standardization effort, sponsored by streaming giants like Google and Netflix, aims to make it cheaper and more efficient to impose Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) systems on Web users. The streaming companies' representatives within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) were unable to finish EME within the time allotted by the W3C, and had asked Berners-Lee for an extension through next year.
Berners-Lee made his surprising decision on Tuesday, as explained in an email announcement by W3C representative Philippe Le Hégaret. Instead of granting a time extension — as he has already done once — Berners-Lee delegated the decision to the W3C's general decision-making body, the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee includes diverse entities from universities to companies to nonprofits, and it is divided as to whether EME should be part of Web standards. It is entirely possible that the Advisory Committee will reject the time extension and terminate EME development, marking an important victory for the free Web.
So it's not dead yet, despite Berners-Lee's decision. Let's not celebrate prematurely and keep up the fight to keep DRM out of the web!
Sir Tim Berners-Lee gave an interview with radio station WBUR about the state of the Web and its future:
Berners-Lee initially imagined the web as a beautiful platform that could help us overcome national and cultural boundaries. He envisioned it would break down silos, but many people today believe the web has created silos.
And he still largely sees the potential of the web, but the web has not turned out to be the complete cyber Utopian dream he had hoped. He's particularly worried about the dark side of social media — places where he says anonymity is being used by "misogynist bullies, by nasty people who just get a kick out of being nasty."
He also identified personal data privacy, the spread of misinformation, and a lack of transparency in online political advertising as major problems with the current Web in a letter marking the World Wide Web's 28th birthday last month.
Previously: World Wide Web Turns 25 years Old
Tim Berners-Lee Proposes an Online Magna Carta
Berners-Lee on HTML 5: If It's Not on the Web, It Doesn't Exist
The First Website Went Online 25 Years Ago
Berners-Lee: World Wide Web is Spy Net
Tim Berners-Lee Just Gave us an Opening to Stop DRM in Web Standards
Tim Berners-Lee approved Web DRM yesterday, but W3C member organizations have two weeks to appeal. This was the controversial Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) standard for the WWW known as Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). The last opportunity to stop EME is an appeal by the Advisory Committee of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). An appeal would then trigger a vote from the whole Committee to make a final decision to ratify or reject EME. As an added difficulty Tim Berners-Lee heads the Advisory Committee.
As Europe's latest copyright proposal heads to a critical vote on June 20-21, more than 70 Internet and computing luminaries have spoken out against a dangerous provision, Article 13, that would require Internet platforms to automatically filter uploaded content. The group, which includes Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, co-founder of the Mozilla Project Mitchell Baker, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, and net neutrality expert Tim Wu, wrote in a joint letter that was released today:
By requiring Internet platforms to perform automatic filtering all of the content that their users upload, Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet, from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.
Molly de Blanc writes at that it has been one year since the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sold out. It was then they, including Tim Berners-Lee himself, decided to incorporate Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) into web standards signalling an end to the open Web. She covers how it happened, what has transpired during the last year in regards to EME, and what steps can be taken.
Digital Restrictions Management exists all over the world in all sorts of technologies. In addition to media files, like music and film, we can find DRM on the Web and enshrined in Web standards. As a Web standard, its use is recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), making it not only easier, but expected for all media files on the Web to be locked down with DRM.
It's been a year since the the W3C voted to bring Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) into Web standards. They claimed to want to "lead the Web to its full potential," but in a secret vote, members of the W3C, with the blessing of Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, agreed to put "the copyright industry in control" of media access. The enshrinement of EME as an official recommendation is not how we envision the "full potential" of the Web at the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
Aral Balkan has a blog post about taking small steps to end surveillance capitalism. In particular he focuses on the need for federated services. He points out that the move to re-decentralize the WWW is difficult and needs to start at the beginning, using a comparison of Apple's original computers to their latest generation of tablets as an illustration.
Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.
This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.
Researcher Ruben Verborgh explains how to re-decentralize the World-Wide Web, for good this time. He argues that decentralization is foremost about choice and thus people should be free to join large or small communities and talks up Solid as a primary option.
Originally designed as a decentralized network, the Web has undergone a significant centralization in recent years. In order to regain freedom and control over the digital aspects of our lives, we should understand how we arrived at this point and how we can get back on track. This chapter explains the history of decentralization in a Web context, and details Tim Berners-Lee’s role in the continued battle for a free and open Web. The challenges and solutions are not purely technical in nature, but rather fit into a larger socio-economic puzzle, to which all of us are invited to contribute. Let us take back the Web for good, and leverage its full potential as envisioned by its creator.
Earlier on SN:
Tim Berners-Lee Launches Inrupt, Aims to Create a Decentralized Web (2018)
Decentralized Sharing (2014)