Tim Berners-Lee is one of the pioneers who brought the internet into being over thirty years ago. When he created methods to locate and link documents over computer networks, it led to what we now call the World Wide Web.
When others became billionaires nearly overnight from Tim’s work, he maintained a role of overseeing that the internet would remain a fair place for sharing information. Today, he believes that the technology that he helped build has taken a turn for the worse. He believes that the tech giants, such as Facebook and Google, have obtained too much power to manipulate people’s data. He refers to such companies as “silos.”
Tim believes that leading tech companies have become surveillance platforms that hold the keys to innovation in a monopolistic fashion. He is not alone in his sentiment, as regulators have expressed similar concerns. As a result, tougher privacy rules are being put in place to curtail the power of the leading tech companies. Google and Facebook have recently been penalized with antitrust lawsuits.
Mr. Berners-Lee believes that these measures will not be effective, and he has other ideas to reform the internet. He wants to implement technology that will move the internet toward what he envisioned when he set it in motion. His idea is called a personal data store, abbreviated “Pod.” This would enable each person to have control over his or her data. This would include information that includes financial information, internet search history, purchasing history and other personal data.
If companies wanted to gain access to Pod information, they would need permission from the owner of the data. This would come into play for online transactions that require a transfer of funds in a purchase or identity verification for loan applications. The company could access the information, but they would not be able to store it.
This approach is meant to counter the search-and-horde method that large companies are employing at present. The Pod formula is similar in spirit to the work of the early pioneers of the internet where engineers developed software to enable entrepreneurs to conduct business over computer networks.
Tim has begun to make his ideas into a reality by creating an open-source project called Solid and establishing a company called Inrupt. The company, launched in November, introduced server software designed for governments and corporations. Inrupt charges a small licensing fee for an enhanced version of the open-source Solid software. Inrupt, based in Boston, has already attracted $20 million from investors.