Solid is a mid-course correction for the Web by its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It realizes Tim’s original vision for the Web as a medium for the secure, decentralized exchange of public and private data.
Why fix the Web?
The first web browser was also an editor. The idea being that not only could everyone read content on the web, but they could also help create it. It was to be a collaborative space for everyone.
However, when the first browser that popularized the web came along, called Mosaic, it included multimedia and editing was taken out. It was considered too difficult a problem. This change was the first curtailing of the web’s promise and spawned an effort led by Tim and others to get the write functionality back. It was dubbed the ‘read-write web’ and led to Richard McManus’ seminal article published in 2003.
The issue with writing data, as Wikipedia and others have learned, is that you need a degree of control over who can write what. That means you need to have permissions to dictate what individuals can do to the data. And to have permissions you need to have a system for identity - a way of uniquely authenticating that an individual is who they purport to be.
Of course the social networks solved this problem within their own systems using their own specific identity and access control, but these were not standard, not interoperable, and gave you no choice in what applications you could use to access that data. You had to have your entire personal or professional life within one silo for it to work. And since the Web is ubiquitous, these silos exist across the data spectrum, from social and medical to financial and civil.
When your data is siloed away from you:
- You have hardly any visibility into what is being retained.
- You have little control over how it is used, or who is using it.
- You have little choice in which applications you can use to access it.
- It is hard to use as a cohesive unit, specifically because it is siloed, scattered across proprietary vendors, interfaces, and data formats.
All of these factors combine to make it very hard to access all of your own data, and put it to work on your behalf.
Why is Solid better?
Solid lets you bring your data together into a decentralized data store called a Pod. It is like a personal Web server for your data.
- You control the data in your Pod.
- It is all stored and accessed using standard, open, and interoperable data formats and protocols.
- Any kind of information can be stored in a Solid Pod.
- You can share slices of your data with the people, organizations, and applications you choose, and you can revoke that access at any time.
Because everything is interoperable, different applications can read and write the same data, instead of creating new data silos that make your data difficult to use in its entirety.
Consequently, you can do more with your data, because the applications you decide to use can be granted access to a wider and more diverse set of information. This lets them give you more value, without forcing you to relinquish control of what’s yours.
How does Solid work?
A Solid Server hosts one or more Solid Pods, accessible via the Solid Protocol.
A Pod hosted on a Solid Server is fully compartmentalized from any others. It has its own set of data and access rules, and is fully controlled by whoever it belongs to (i.e. you).
You can also have more than one Pod, hosted in different places. This is effectively transparent to the applications and services you use, because your data, wherever it is hosted, or data that has been shared with you, is all linked through your Identity.
The linked data model makes the data you store interoperable by using open, standard formats, that can be validated by the Solid Server to ensure data isn’t corrupted by disparate applications.
This means that you can share select portions of your data with other people and groups you trust, or with an emerging ecosystem of applications and services, that can read and write data in your Pod using standard patterns for application interoperability. And just as you can share your data with others, they can also share their data with you. This creates rich and collaborative experiences across a combination of both personal and shared data.
How can I get involved?
Solid is a burgeoning technology that is already being applied in the real-world to solve practical problems, introducing exciting new ways for people to control their data and extract value from it.
The Solid ecosystem evolves and expands thanks to the efforts of the Solid Community. Check out some of the applications created by the community as well as some of the exciting work underway in several prestigious Research Labs across the world.
There is much more work to do, and many exciting problems left to solve. We invite and encourage you to join in!
Engage with the Community
Attend other events hosted across the world by community members.
Strengthen the Specification
Contribute to the Specification by proposing changes, identifying problems, or suggesting new use cases.
Engage with the Panels, all of which are actively working on proposals to the specification in specific topic areas, from authentication to interoperability.