Your Data Revolution: The Future of User Data & the Web
Earlier this month, Inrupt celebrated the 30th anniversary of WIRED in San Francisco with a number of executives, visionaries and thinkers at the magazine’s LiveWIRED event.
The talks at LiveWIRED explored technology’s impact on our past, present and future—as well as solutions to today’s most pressing problems.
Inrupt’s CTO Sir Tim Berners-Lee and CEO John Bruce examined the revolution taking place around user data and the future of the web. They discussed what’s motivating enterprises, governments and individuals themselves to adopt Inrupt’s Solid technology to create mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their consumers or citizens.
Here are some of the key themes and takeaways from the session:
The Evolution of the Web
When the web was first created over 30 years ago, anyone with a website had control over that website and the data it generated. By linking to other websites, individuals could build information networks and learn from each other. The original web was designed in a way that empowered individuals to have more agency over their online presence and their data.
Similarly, organizations benefited from the new customer bases and insights provided by establishing an online presence—the web offered new ways to connect with customers and advertise services, creating value for both consumers and corporations. Customers began to form digital relationships and share data with organizations in return for products or services.
However, these relationships became skewed and one-sided as major platforms began to emerge and dominate Web 2.0. Consumers grew frustrated with their fragmented user experience across the web and distrustful of how corporations were using their data. This new model of data management also created challenges for enterprises, who were unable to glean accurate insights from fragmented and often out-of-date consumer insights stored in different data silos.
As a part of Web 3.0, Solid returns to the web’s founding principles of user empowerment. Solid decouples applications, data and identities, and stores user data in a Solid Pod. Applications request access to data stored in Pods, creating fine-grained access control and consent capabilities for using and sharing data.
Building Beneficent Apps
During the talk, Sir Tim Berners-Lee also touched on the importance of beneficent apps in the Solid ecosystem. Beneficent apps—or applications that keep users’ best interest in mind—are becoming increasingly common on the web. Solid helps take beneficent apps one step further by granting users access to their data and insight into how it is used. Users can then decide if they’d like to consent to their data being used in this manner and for how long they’d like to grant access.
As Solid becomes more widely adopted, beneficent app developers will see the advantage of creating Solid-based applications that protect their users’ data and create a more balanced relationship between the app owner and the end user. Organizations will also adopt this approach as they see increased user demand for transparent data sharing.
Developing Truly Innovative Applications
One major advantage of Solid separating applications from data storage is the creation of data that is more freely available. Storing data in Pods simplifies the backend, and doesn’t require the management of multiple APIs, mashing data sets together, or trying to access siloed data.
When data is available in a form that’s well understood, available through one API, and tied to individuals with WebIDs, the potential for innovation and new technologies is limitless.
“Once you can imagine access to data in an unfettered way with the user’s consent, the application spread is amazing,” our CEO John Bruce said at LiveWIRED.
Looking Ahead: Personal Data, AI, and Regulation
Over the past year, generative AI has taken center stage as every industry aims to capitalize on the new capabilities the technology offers. How do we ensure that AI, like the original web, works for the end user, and not just the entity that built it?
The answer lies in storing data in Pods, where AI can be trained on unique, accurate user data with a user’s consent. Regulation also plays a role: As personal AI technologies become more prevalent, regulators need to ensure that these agents are working with their users’ interests in mind.