The Web of Data is all grassroots and we, its people, are to weave it.
It is up to us to take action and avoid the fragmentation of the Web. It is up to us to understand the value and the importance of the data we are so easily giving away to silo platforms.
Now, we can act upon the understanding that the data we create every time we step online is ours and we can manage it the way we want, on a web we want.
It’s High Time We Linked People with Linked Data
A tipping point could be reached where people will realize ‘that data belongs to me.
cit. Tim Berners-Lee in TimBerners-Lee, inventor of the Web plots a radical overhaul of his creation
It was in 1994 when the inventor of the Web wrote: “The web is all grass roots; You who publish are its future; You have a responsibility …and an opportunity.” in a tutorial for ECHT94 on online publishing on the web. Today, tons of content published on the Web and millions of all kinds of datasets online later, Sir Tim Berners Lee is busy working on Solid.
What is Solid?
Solid aims to radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy.
Still in its infancy as a platform, Solid (derived from “social linked data”) will allow us to manage content, and most importantly the data underlying it, freely, unobstructed by proprietary formats, difficulties with transferring content from one place to another, or the need to give away our privacy and the ownership of our data. It will do that by standing solid :) as set of conventions and tools that will allow the creation of decentralized social applications where data will be decoupled from the application itself, meaning that we, as users will be free to to choose where our data resides and who is allowed to access it.
When using the Web, people should have the freedom to choose where their data resides and who is allowed to access it by decoupling content from the application itself. Because applications are decoupled from the data they produce, users will be able to avoid vendor lock-in by seamlessly switching the apps and personal data storage servers, without losing any data or social connections. Developers will be able to easily innovate by creating new apps or improving current apps, all while reusing existing data that was previously created through other applications.
For a very easy to grasp explanation read the wonderful
Decentralization NOW! Or Not So Fast …
there are many more advantages to a world in which people and organisations regain the ability to store their data wherever they want—without missing out on the enormous potential and diversity the Web has to offer.
cit. Paradigm shifts forthe decentralized Web, Ruben Verborgh
Have you tried Solid? I had! And I am both excited and scared.
I am scared because it felt like the early days of creating something on the Web, where there weren’t so many layers and connections, making the flow of moulding with digital objects smooth. In this terra incognita all is still rough. Rough, but true. It allures me to leave my comfort zone and get to understanding how I can upload a photo, start a chat, connect to other users, share some slides, upload my contacts. And all this without a sugary interface that will allow me to quickly create while but in the long term lock me in a walled garden of a closed ecosystem⅋.
⅋ A digression: maybe “closed ecosystem” is contradictio in adjecto, but I will explore that one in another post. Because it is worth exploring the idea that ecosystems always have porous boundaries. And this very much relates to something very important, part of the Semantic Web and Linked Data talk – the Open World Assumption. Digression over. Let’s get back to Solid. And to my excitement and readiness to walk that extra mile of understanding how I can take better care of my data and the interconnected world around me.
I am excited because I can follow the development of the platform (here: https://gitter.im/solid/chat) and all the people who want us, the users that can’t code, get and have our data right.
The team, together with enthusiasts from all over the world, are working on this. It’s not easy, there are many things to overcome, to rethink and to rebuild. But as I said, it’s true. It is true, because it is a steadfast step towards a Web where we have our own data and can choose when, how and where to give it – be that to a personal assistant, to an application that manages our flights or a website that we buy from, or to whatever application we can imagine being built in the future.
With Solid, as much as this is a strain for me, I am slowly and patiently feeling my way around the platform and seeing what I can and can’t do. And I have this feeling of imagining what will it be like to actually live and write in a truly Semantic Web. Although swimming in the unknown waters of code (I don’t even know how to put my picture there) I am willing to put my time, effort and thinking into this, because I know this is long-term commitment to a better Web.
Towards a Good Web
It is a webby road. A semantic webby road, I personally am willing to travel, knowing that there is still so much to learn and do for a the Web to become that independent “cyberspace, the new home of the mind”. (ref. A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace by John Perry Barlow)
That extra mile of code is bumpy for non-techies. But it is worth it. And a bit of awareness about our data and digital footprints goes a long way towards the free flow of (our) information and, more importantly, the way it can be linked together.a bit of awareness about our data and digital footprints goes a long way towards the free flow of (our) information and, more importantly, the way it can be linked together. Click To Tweet
Remember David Weinberger’s small pieces, loosely joined? Add linked data and let’s stay semantic webby.
With Linked Data, please!
How to get involved with Solid:
- Join the Solid chat (where developers, and yay, content people can talk or just lurk a bit to see what’s going on) https://gitter.im/solid/chat
- Read about it: https://www.csail.mit.edu/research/solid-social-linked-data
- Contribute: https://solid.mit.edu/#involved
- Create and account (just do it :): https://solid.community/
The best way to help the community is to embrace the technology at the heart of it. Create an account at solid.community, store some of your stuff there, and use some apps! Things may be a little rough around the edges now, but we’re feverishly working on the next generation user experience and your input and feedback now can still help shape what we release very soon!