Internet giants could be a ‘fad’, a passing phase. This is according to Tim Berners-Lee, who came up with the navigation system that allows us to trawl the internet and World Wide Web for, well, everything we need to survive in this new normal.
He sees as many do, that there is a restlessness out there, a growing need to get back control of our data. And he is working on a project called SOLID as part of a campaign to bring a semblance of sanity back to the web by decentralising it and “resulting,” says Berners-Lee, “in true data ownership as well as improved privacy”.
This is all very well – and his project with MIT is one of several initiatives aimed at dealing with privacy and data ownership problems. But he, and the others, are up against some fearsome adversaries.
Facebook, in particular, is trampling all over anything that gets in the way of its march for growth. Even Governments are having their work cut out to keep social media giants under control. Facebook vs Australia is the most recent example and showed that ‘the media needs Facebook more than Facebook needs the media,’ as Radio Free Mobile puts it. Indeed, Richard Windsor is not convinced that Facebook ended up paying anything meaningful to News Corp, hiding behind a historic deal with the group.
Any attempt at gaining control of users’ data is going to be tough. In fact, without users’ data, Facebook loses its revenue making machine and is not about to let go easily.
It is optimistic to believe that internet giants come and go. For one thing, what does the ‘next big thing’ that will topple them even look like?
The good news is that things are always unpredictable, and large companies do get shoved into the shade unexpectedly. In fact, Berners-Lee is not the only notable figure to make predictions about the internet’s fate. Bill Gates himself famously said that he thought the internet itself was a passing ‘fad’.
Yet you cannot help but be impressed by Berners-Lee and his optimism that he and others can re-democratise the web. But there is a part of you that wonders whether he is so up in arms about it all because he feels a little guilty that he started the thing in the first place.