Solid: innovation through personal data control

Ruben Verborgh, Ghent Universityimec

Workshop for the European Court of Auditors, 10 March 2021

Solid: innovation through personal data control

Ruben Verborgh

Ghent University – imec

©2019 Facebook
©1969 source unknown
1969 live video 380,000 km
©2020 Google Maps
2019 photo 11 km

We are facing an innovation problem
and it pertains to personal data.

Let’s look for answers to these questions:

The Web strives to be universal
through independence of many factors.

The Web brings freedom of expression
to everyone across the world.

The Web brings permissionless innovation
at a global scale.

The first threat to universality
were the browser wars of the 1990s.

This battle was replaced by another:
the search engine wars of the 2000s.

This battle was also replaced by another:
the platform wars of the 2010s.

Our data has become centralized
in a handful of Web platforms.

Within the walled gardens of social media,
you have to move either data or people.

© David Simonds

In 2017, Tim Berners-Lee listed
three challenges for the Web.

All three indicate a loss of control/agency.

Tim Berners-Lee is spearheading Solid
as an ecosystem to take back control.

Solid aims to restore choice
by separating data from apps.

Every piece of data created by a person
or about them, is stored in a data pod.

Apps and services appear similarly,
but they blend data from many sources.

A person can grant apps and people access
to very specific parts of their data.

Separating app and storage competition
creates better offerings for all parties.

By abandoning data harvesting,
we restore permissionless innovation.

Solid is not a platform to replace others,
but a way of building for the Web.

A Solid server acts as a data pod
that stores and guards your data.

A data pod can contain any data
you create or need online.

Solid clients are browser or native apps
that read from or write to your data pod.

Any app you can envision,
you can build with Solid.

Client–server communication is governed
by the Solid specifications.

Several open-source implementations
of servers, apps, and libraries exist.

Decentralized apps have many back-ends. Back-ends work with many apps.

The Paradox of Freedom:
you can only be free if you follow rules.

Current networks are centered
around the aggregator.

We need to create network flows
to and from the aggregator.

The individual network nodes
need to become the source of truth.

Aggregators need to become part
of a larger network.

Aggregators serve as a crucial
but transparent layer in the network.

Aggregators’ main responsibility becomes
fostering a network between nodes.

Interoperability challenges in Solid
are solved through Linked Data.

The best way to predict
the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay

The best way to invent
the future is to predict it.

John Perry Barlow

Let’s assemble the brightest minds
from business, technology, government,
civil society, the arts and academia
to tackle the threats to the Web’s future.

Tim Berners-Lee

Solid: innovation through personal data control