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posted by martyb on Sunday September 30 2018, @11:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the make-the-web-a-web-again dept.

Exclusive: Tim Berners-Lee tells us his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web

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


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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by PartTimeZombie on Monday October 01 2018, @12:18AM (15 children)

    by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Monday October 01 2018, @12:18AM (#742180)

    I had a quick look at this Pod thing, and as far as I can make out it's just cloud storage.

    I already run my own NextCloud server, so I don't see the point in having another online storage account.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by RandomFactor on Monday October 01 2018, @12:26AM (4 children)

    by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 01 2018, @12:26AM (#742185) Journal

    There has to be something more to it.

    Face/Twit/Gmail could care less about you sticking a copy of your data in some POD as long as they still have it also. If they ever do care, just require access to it to use their service.

    --
    В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
    • (Score: 1) by NateMich on Monday October 01 2018, @01:18AM (3 children)

      by NateMich (6662) on Monday October 01 2018, @01:18AM (#742195)

      There has to be something more to it.

      Face/Twit/Gmail could care less about you sticking a copy of your data in some POD as long as they still have it also. If they ever do care, just require access to it to use their service.

      I have a couple of thoughts about this, first of course is that it is a bit late for this idea, sort of like what you are saying.

      The other, is that even if you stored all of your own information somewhere (and online businesses magically couldn't collect info on you anymore), they could simply demand it in order to offer you services. And people are dumb, and they would hand it over, possibly forcing you to do likewise once you find that you must also use such services due to their momentum.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @03:06AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @03:06AM (#742221)

        It's not solving privacy issues outright. It's solving the goddamn issue of being locked into an dwindling number of behemoth quasi-monopolies. Even if you don't like Facebook, you can't leave it, because that's where all your data are! All your love letters and photos and memes and "friends".

        The idea is to unlock your data, allowing you to migrate it and manipulate it as you see fit. If you want to run a super secret and encrypted private "Facebook" with your fellow neckbeards, then go ahead; migrate your data to that service. Most people probably won't.

        The whole point is to create a foundation for market competition again. Right now, there's no consumer choice, and thus stagnation and (worse) censorship. The goal is to DECENTRALIZE the web, and if some better privacy comes out of that, then great, but it's not the underlying purpose.

        Centralization is just an efficiency in a decentralized system. When a centralization goes bad, there needs to be away to abandon it, and go about the business of creating good centralizations again.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @04:31PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @04:31PM (#742345)

          Can leave it? I have never had a Facebook account. What's your point?

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02 2018, @01:08AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02 2018, @01:08AM (#742574)

            /r/iamverysmart

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by tibman on Monday October 01 2018, @01:15AM (6 children)

    by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 01 2018, @01:15AM (#742194)

    It's a lot more structured than that. You have a pod, but so do all your friends. An "app" (just javascript really) can talk with all the pods and create a group chat with photos (or whatever you want). Then you change your name in your pod and it will also change what all your friends see because your pod data is what drives the app data. Pull your pod access and you'd completely cease to exist to the app and your friends. Functionally, it's identical to something like facebook. The difference is where the data is and how it is controlled. You aren't logging into someone else's site and requesting them to change your name.

    --
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    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by coolgopher on Monday October 01 2018, @02:27AM (4 children)

      by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 01 2018, @02:27AM (#742208)

      Uh-huh, and what's stopping FB et al from adding support for "link/import pod" whereby they copy (potentially continuously so) the data from your pod? If you nuke your pod, they'd still have all the data...

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @02:50AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @02:50AM (#742213)

        Nothing as far as I know. Yet they still would not have all the interactions unlike currently.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @02:55AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01 2018, @02:55AM (#742215)

        That's the point. You're not tied to using Facebook's "app".

        It's like having an open document format; you don't have to use Microsoft Word anymore; you can use any editor or service that uses the open document format.

        • (Score: 2) by coolgopher on Monday October 01 2018, @07:19AM (1 child)

          by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 01 2018, @07:19AM (#742258)

          When everyone else is still using Word and shipping files in its broken version of the "open document format", you're still locked to #&!~@# Word.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PiMuNu on Monday October 01 2018, @09:42AM

            by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 01 2018, @09:42AM (#742270)

            > everyone else is still using Word

            An alternative model is "email", where some use gmail and others use hotmail and others use . A few even grow their own.

            Which model will win? Well no one ever won a war without fighting a battle, and right now it looks like we need a better way...

    • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Monday October 01 2018, @12:52PM

      by acid andy (1683) on Monday October 01 2018, @12:52PM (#742295) Homepage Journal

      I really want to get excited about this but it sounds like it won't be too useful for people like us that already avoid F***book and similar. If you make data in your pod available to other people, there's still nothing to stop corporations making copies of that data. It allows text and images, so that means it can deliver advertisements as well. It would be good if it makes an equivalent of cross domain requests and tracking impossible to engineer, although with effort we can already block those things with browser add ons, with mixed success.

      --
      Master of the science of the art of the science of art.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bobthecimmerian on Monday October 01 2018, @11:24AM (2 children)

    by bobthecimmerian (6834) on Monday October 01 2018, @11:24AM (#742282)

    I prefer Sandstorm.io (also fully open source) to NextCloud and run my own server for that. However, I think Sandstorm, NextCloud, and Solid pods are not a worthwhile solution for the general public. My wife isn't going to run one. My brothers aren't going to run one. The only thing they would do is pay some other company to run it for them. Or maybe, just maybe, have some big company host it for them without any direct fees in return for having integrated advertising and data collection embedded in the product.

    Sound familiar? Even if Solid is an open standard, I think it will lend itself to the same centralization we have today.

    Instead, I think people looking at a decentralized web will get the biggest privacy benefit for the average person by focusing on tools that don't require any kind of traditional server. Something like Bittorrent for social networks, really. I think Secure Scuttlebutt ( https://www.scuttlebutt.nz/ [scuttlebutt.nz] ) and Keybase.io ( https://keybase.io/ [keybase.io] ) are a start. I'm hopeful the dat project with Beaker browser and tools like Fritter could be even better ( https://beakerbrowser.com/ [beakerbrowser.com] and https://github.com/beakerbrowser/fritter [github.com] ). When your own device is the server, there's no space for Google/Microsoft/Facebook/whatever to muscle in.

    Reliable backups are a headache, though, and I don't have an answer for that. I mean, I have my own automated backups in place. But if the average person sets up their own distributed peer for some service on their own device, and then their phone dies and they lose all of their data, they will go running right back to Facebook. So backups of some kind need to be part of the solution.

    • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Monday October 01 2018, @08:04PM (1 child)

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Monday October 01 2018, @08:04PM (#742446)

      See? This is why I browse this site.

      There I was, being more or less happy with Nextcloud, installed on Turnkey Linux, which is easy and then I get a reply like this.

      Now I have to look at sandstorm.io, which might be awesome. Thanks Mr. Cimmerian.