The Evolution of Solid

Why the inventor of the World Wide Web needs to change the world, again.

The Evolution of Solid

Why the inventor of the World Wide Web needs to change the world, again.

"The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past." -timbl

Solid is the technology that underpins a movement, being led by Sir Tim Berners-Lee to re-orient the web to its original vision.  To understand the ‘why’ of Solid, it’s important to understand the evolution of the web and how it’s diverged from Sir Tim’s original and inspiring vision.

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 all mankind.

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 lead to Richard McManus' seminal article published in 2003.

Solid has taken 15 years of development work to finally deliver this.

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 - what can individuals do to the data. And to have permissions you need to have a system for identity - a way of uniquely confirming that an individual is who they purport to be.

At the same time the web was always designed to be a space for data as well as documents. The Linked Data Platform group formalized this further by creating a standard for working with file systems, which when combined with the Unix philosophy form a powerful way of achieving this. These two principles, of read-write capability and managed data accessibility are key to the original and potent concept of the web. They were unfortunately lost along the way as the web evolved.

Hence solid, based on existing web standards and the result of decades of work, Solid has read-write functionality, incorporating permissions and identity, along with data manageability and real-time updates via a websocket.

It realizes the web as originally envisioned and provides a platform for the next generation of truly empowering and innovative applications.

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