Founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, is embarking on his second major ground-breaking and radical plan since the WWW’s inception. His aim is to de-centralise the web and bring the power back to its users rather than those profiting from it – namely, Facebook, Google and Amazon. But, what will this mean to the wider world, including the industry of PR and digital marketing?
Berners-Lee has launched Inrupt, with its solution, Solid, an open-source platform built to decentralise the web. Solid allows you to access all of your data seamlessly, such as your calendar, music choices, videos, chat and research all in one place in a visual platform. It’s a digital assistant for all your daily needs, but crucially, all the information is under your control rather than owned by one of the big Palo Alto players. It’s your data, encrypted for your use. In the current centralised web, data is kept in silos which are controlled by the companies that own them, but in a decentralised scenario, these silos don’t exist.
This is a developer’s dream as hackers have become used to unpicking these silos. Developers will have the freedom to build their own decentralised apps through the Inrupt site.
Thinking more widely, however, what will this mean for PR, marketing and digital professionals, who are continuously updating their know-how on the fast-paced, evolving world that the likes of Facebook and Google have developed? For instance, Whiteoaks is constantly reviewing and upgrading its digital service to clients, creating strategies that rely on targeting specific audiences. When it comes to audiences, this often falls out of where data is centralised and for all to use.
With the control of data firmly back in the hands of the Solid user with a personal data store, Inrupt could signify a power shift away from the online giants. This could mean that rather than relying on regulation such as GDPR, the default starting point for data rests with the user to opt in to how their information is used.
I’m trying not to sit on the fence as a PR professional, but I can see that there are benefits to starting again with a pure communications network that cuts out the middle man and focuses on what data we want to share and who we want to share it with rather than rules and parameters being dictated to us. Yet with huge commercial opportunities for the likes of Facebook to develop personalised and data driven initiatives, we almost need to work towards a stage where we have the best of both worlds – centralised or not.