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Master of your own Database

It is definitely one of the most important social issues of our time: who is in charge of your data? The majority of people do not (yet) see data as something very valuable, unlike the big tech companies. Those do know how to make a profit from it.

The core of the emergence of data for commercial purposes is, of course, the rise of the Internet. Due in part to the groundwork of Sir Tim Berner-Lee, who came up with the “www” concept. He, of all people, is now busy with a campaign  against the Internet.

Gerard Zuidweg

Managing Partner
Gerard Zuidweg - Managing Partner

Firsthand accounts

How is it that the founder of one of the most important inventions in history is critical of his own work? We heard it firsthand when we recently attended Postgres Vision in Boston. In addition to all the sessions on things like PostgreSQL on Kubernetes and PostgreSQL in the Cloud, Berner-Lee’s story was high on the agenda.

“The Web as I envisioned it we have not seen yet.”

His dream for the Web was that making this technology available would bring people closer together and make them work better together, consistent with the Open Source idea. But just the opposite happened.

Literally, he states that the Internet has brought a lot of good but has also become something controlled by digital superpowers with their own agenda who are out to exploit as much user data as possible for their own gain.

A proprietary database for everyone

To redress the balance, he decided to launch a new open-source initiative called Solid. Solid’s ambition is to build a platform in which the user has the right of self-determination over his own (user) data. Everyone’s own database as it were.

Within Solid they call this a Pod and the owner of the pod (and thus of the data) determines which applications may use this data in which way. And more importantly, the moment a user feels that his data is not being used properly, he can withdraw his permission.

Open-source community as food for Solid

Around this idea Berners-Lee is currently building both an open-source community, whose members may contribute to the Solid Platform. At the same time, he is attracting the commercial initiative to himself with the creation of the company Inrupt. The ultimate goal is to reform the Internet from the inside out so that it is once again in line with the original ideal.

Sympathetic, but is it feasible?

This idea is unquestionably sympathetic. Berners-Lee reverses the unwritten rules of the www and lets, for example, Facebook ask for permission instead of the user having to struggle through Facebook’s interminable terms and conditions and thus just click “agree.

The question that naturally arises is whether the adoption of the current version of the Internet still leaves room for a new version with new rules. For that, first of all, a much greater degree of awareness of the danger of the current Internet for its users is needed. This requires a lot of Marketing & Communication and that is often not the strength of an Open Source project.

But of course, as database experts, we do get excited by the idea that all people on this earth will have their own database and thus regain control of their own data. Now all we need is a plan on how to manage those 7 billion + databases!

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