tim berners lee big data

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, renowned as the pioneering inventor of the World Wide Web, is on a quest to restore the ownership of personal data to Internet users and reestablish the democratic ideals of the web.

His new project Solid, in collaboration with MIT engineers, is the latest product of his ambition. The open source project, a brainchild of his startup inrupt, offers “personal empowerment through data” by entrusting users to create, manage and secure their data online.

In a powerful mission statement on inrupt’s website, Berners-Lee provides insights into what compelled him to develop Solid.

“I’ve always believed the web is for everyone," Berners-Lee wrote in a post on Medium. "That's why I and others fight fiercely to protect it. The changes we’ve managed to bring have created a better and more connected world. But for all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.”

It takes no stretch of imagination to guess what might be the tipping point for Berners-Lee. The news cycle is replete with examples of the consequences of data mishandling. Faced with few alternatives, consumers are often forced to accept the relinquishing of data as an Internet norm. With co-founder John Bruce at inrupt, Berners-Lee plans to change that through Solid’s decentralized model that prevents companies from keeping user data to sell to third parties.

“I’m incredibly optimistic for this next era of the web...The future is still so much bigger than the past.”

The hope is the open source project will become the new normal for personal data online, and the urgency was enough to convince Berners-Lee to take a sabbatical from his work at MIT and reduce his day-to-day involvement in the World Wide Web Consortium.

While the web veered from Berners-Lee’s original intentions, he still sees potential to right the course of this world-changing technology, writing “I’m incredibly optimistic for this next era of the web...The future is still so much bigger than the past.”

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