How Tim Berners-Lee Will Fix the Internet

“Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who was knighted for inventing the internet navigation system known as the World Wide Web, wants to re-make cyberspace once again,” reports Reuters:

With a new startup called Inrupt, Berners-Lee aims to fix some of the problems that have handicapped the so-called open web in an age of huge, closed platforms such as Facebook. Building on ideas developed by an open-source software project called Solid, Inrupt promises a web where people can use a single sign-on for any service and personal data is stored in “pods,” or personal online data stores, controlled by the user.

“People are fed up with the lack of controls, the silos,” said Berners-Lee, co-founder and chief technology officer of Inrupt, in an interview at the Reuters Next conference… John Bruce, a veteran technology executive who is CEO of Inrupt, said the company had signed up Britain’s National Health Service, the BBC and the government of Flanders in Belgium as pilot customers, and hoped to announce many more by April…

A key aim for Inrupt is to get software developers to write programs for the platform. Inrupt, like the original web, is at its core mostly a set of protocols for how machines talk to one another, meaning that specific applications bring it to life.

“The use cases are so broad, it’s like a do-over for the web,” Berners-Lee said.
In a video interview, Berners-Lee tells Reuters that what people are worried about isn’t privacy per se but “the lack of empowerment” — for example, to collaborate with people. And then he acknowledges that the worldwide web does suffer from limited access control. “I wanted it to be a collaborative space, but in a way that was naive, because collaborative spaces you need to be private. You need to start off with just a limited sharing, and then you allow the sharing to increase.”

Social networks provided some features like a unique login and identity. But unfortunately, then “The large social networks will tend to get larger” — and ultimately without a single global signon, users then become trapped in separate silos.

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