We use decentralized services on the web every day. The most common one is email. Email uses open source code and standardized protocols that allow anyone to send and receive electronic mail. The same is true for contact records with vCard and CardDAV, and calendars with CalDAV.
Unlike email, contacts, and calendars, social data is centralized and controlled by proprietary networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Tim Berners-Lee is attempting to rectify that problem through his project at MIT called Solid.
Solid (derived from “social linked data”) is a proposed set of conventions and tools for building decentralized social applications based on Linked Data principles. Solid is modular and extensible and it relies as much as possible on existing W3C standards and protocols.
Solid is designed to rectify the lack of privacy and data ownership that exists on social networks today. Like email, Solid presents a solution for creating a decentralized social network, where users have full control over their data.
Software companies are using Solid right now
There is a growing community of entrepreneurs and software developers on the Solid Forum that are slowly making progress on what might be the future of social media. The category, Build a Solid App, has hundreds of topics discussing product ideas and asking for feedback on apps that have already been built.
Some developers have existing software that is being made to be work with Solid. For example, Angelo Veltens has a WordPress plugin called WP Linked Data that publishes linked data and is used for WebID authentication. He recently made his plugin compatible with Solid.
Other companies like Digita are incorporating Solid into their software as an essential part of their service. Digita is building enterprise software that includes decentralized identity management, marketing automation, and social linked data. Solid is at the core of how their service will work.
Solid is made for existing social networks and independent developers
Solid is designed to be decentralized and be used by any app developer. That means existing proprietary social networks like Facebook and Twitter could update their software to support it. Solid also represents an opportunity for Google to reenter the social space and simultaneously show they’re serious about user privacy.
Perhaps the best thing about Solid is that it levels the playing field for independent developers. It allows them to create apps similar to the third-party Twitter apps that were made when Twitter’s API was open to everyone. The most significant difference with Solid is that access to it can’t be taken away, because nobody owns it.