Berners-Lee and CEO John Bruce have created “Solid Pod” which is an online personal data store. It enables people to keep their data in one central place and control which people and applications can access it.
Users can get a Pod from selected providers, hosted by web services such as Amazon (AMZN), or run their own server, if they have the technical knowledge. The main attraction to self-hosting is control and privacy, says Berners-Lee.
“I think we’ve all come to realize that the value of the web is embodied in the data available on it,” he adds. “In this new world of you looking after your own data, it doesn’t live in big silos that are lucrative targets for attackers.”
The startup is called Inrupt. The platform is currently being tested by the UK’s National Health Service and by the government of the Belgian region of Flanders. The government aims to use Pods to let its citizens choose how to share their personal data.
In October, the BBC introduced an experimental service using Pods for “watch parties,” where multiple friends stream a program at the same time.
Eleni Sharp, an executive product manager for BBC Research and Development, described it in a blog post as “a radically different approach to data management.”
Inrupt was launched in 2017. The company raised $30 million in December 2021 and Berners-Lee says it will help deliver the next version of the web — “Web 3.”
Paul Brody, Global Blockchain Leader at consulting firm Ernst and Young said: “You’ll hear people talk about Web 3 and decentralization as being very similar in ideas and goals,” he says.
“Owning your own data and really controlling your own commerce infrastructure is something that Web 3 will enable. It will be ultimately really transformational for users.”
“I think the public has been concerned about privacy — the fact that these platforms have a huge amount of data, and they abuse it,” he says. “But I think what they’re missing sometimes is the lack of empowerment. You need to get back to a situation where you have autonomy, you have control of all your data.”