tim berners lee web 3.0

The real Web 3.0 doesn’t rely on blockchain

Instead of getting distracted by buzzwords and tech utopia jargon, focus on Solid and what its capabilities enable for people and organizations today.
Oz Olivo, VP of Product
November 29, 2022

The term “Web3” describes a new era of the Internet in which online life and commerce are not dominated by a few large companies.

Unfortunately, the hype and marketing of Web3 has only focused on particular technologies, like blockchain and cryptocurrencies. This narrow focus on the shiny new tech and often overhyped business models has promoted a kind of quick fix that’s led to toxic buzz and a mostly hollow revolution. Unfortunately, it has also distracted us from the important thing — the type of experiences and relationships people actually want from the web.

So what do we want?

Most individuals want to know who has access to their data, know how it is being used, and decline or revoke consent if they’re not comfortable with sharing certain data. Perhaps most importantly, they want their data to provide them with value.

Most businesses want something similar. They want access to consumer data to deliver a service — not to be perpetually responsible for governing, securing, and keeping up-to-date massive amounts of user data. Businesses want a simple way to get a full understanding of their customers’ needs, preferences and intentions. Most importantly, they want the ability to use customer data to deliver products and experiences that delight their customers in new and meaningful ways.

At Inrupt, we’re enabling a web that provides these kinds of capabilities and relationships. Early on, we found that popular Web3 solutions do not meet most of the necessary requirements to accomplish the infrastructure-level changes we need. 

We need a tech stack with solutions for identity, data management, application interoperability, access control, and consent.

Fortunately, solutions to these requirements already exist in the form of Solid technology. Solid integrates new standards into the web we already have. It extends the capabilities of the web and fills in fundamental gaps. 

Let’s call it “Web 3.0” — our CTO Tim sometimes does — because Solid is really a new layer of the web stack. One that helps us evolve the Internet to be a more empowering and open place for all. 

Let me show you what we mean by focusing on Solid’s capabilities and what they enable for people and organizations.

  1. Identity and access control. What most people want and need is visibility, transparency, and consent over their data. In particular, what individuals need are guarantees around confidentiality between themselves and trusted parties, partners, and institutions. For example, my medical records are between me and my doctor. My finances are between me, my financial institution, and my accountant. Whenever more than one party requires access to data, we need a robust and unambiguous access control system to manage confidentiality.

    These types of flexible data relationships require identities on the web that are not tied to any particular vendor or application. Solutions such as Decentralized Identifiers and Web Identifiers are already gaining traction in this space, and web standards are emerging that aim to provide simple privacy controls over user data. These standards are incorporated into Solid, which is designed to be an end-to-end solution for identity, applications, and data on the web — all built around personal online datastores called Solid Pods.

    What would this look like in a Web 3.0 world? Today, when you install a new app on your smartphone, you likely receive a notification requesting access to various classes of data stored on your device, such as your contacts, pictures, or location. You’re given the option to grant that access or reject it, and you reserve the right to revoke access to those applications and services at any time in your privacy settings. A true Web 3.0 solution would bring this user experience to all of the data about people on the web, such as financial records, medical data, browsing preferences, e-commerce data, etc. 
  2. Application interoperability. The state of the web today is dominated by fragmented data siloed across countless organizations. Nearly every company in the world struggles to capture a complete and consistently up-to-date, 360-degree view of their customers. And they integrate numerous platforms and data warehouses to avoid data duplication, staleness, and decay.

    All this effort leads to incredibly complex infrastructure, which is a compliance and liability nightmare, with only a handful of organizations who have set themselves apart. This means that success continues to be determined by who can hoard the most data and not who delivers the best services.

    Solid helps to solve this problem by building on already adopted web standards to ensure interoperability at an application and protocol level, which also prevents lock-in for users and enterprises alike.

    Application interoperability is necessary for organizations and people to work with each other seamlessly on the web. An interoperable data standard gives organizations a single authoritative source of truth while reducing operational overhead and simplifying infrastructure. With each individual empowered to control and update their own data within the framework, the information available will be both accurate and up to date. Such a system also provides transparency and visibility into which organizations have access to data and what that data is being used for, which protects the individual’s data privacy rights and complies with modern privacy legislation. 
  3. Data governance and compliance. With web-native solutions such as Solid, data is distributed. This means that regardless of where data is physically stored, it is connected to the person it describes, and the data is interoperable across systems. People are able to revoke access to most classes of data if they choose, but there is also support for cases where access must be granted to certain entities for compliance and governance reasons.

    "Decentralization” is an extremely popular concept often advocated for by Web3 evangelists. But requiring physically decentralized storage does not usually work well within organizations that require governance and compliance. 

    In addition, complete decentralization forces each individual to self-govern their data — a situation most people don’t actually want. Realistically, the majority of people do not have the knowledge and skills to do this effectively or safely, nor do they want the additional responsibility, given the complexity of today’s data ecosystems.

Solid technologies and standards enable interoperability and fine-grained access control within a distributed — and compliant — system. These capabilities serve to engender trust as people gain visibility, transparency, and consent over their data.

For enterprises and governments, the immediate value of adopting a Solid-based infrastructure comes from replacing the endless integrations and operational workarounds of data silos with an architecture that synchronizes consent-based data between the user and an organization. This is the empowerment that Web 3.0 (and even Web3 evangelists) aspire to and what Inrupt’s Solid technology is already making a reality.  

Want to learn more about how Inrupt’s Enterprise Solid Server can help your organization drive innovation in data management? Get in touch today. 

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