Tim Berners-Lee and Fog Works Want to Save You from Big Tech

Berners-Lee at CERN, outside Geneva, Switzerland, 1994. PHOTOGRAPH © 1994–2018 CERN.

In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (“the Web”) to improve  information sharing between scientists and universities across the world. Berners-Lee quickly realized the Web could be used by everyone.  An information utopia, of sorts:  a place where everyone could be empowered with all the best information.

But, rather than empower individuals, the Web has primarily empowered tech giants.  Per Vanity Fair:

We, collectively, by the billions, gave it away with every signed user agreement and intimate moment shared with technology. Facebook, Google, and Amazon now monopolize almost everything that happens online, from what we buy to the news we read to who we like. Along with a handful of powerful government agencies, they are able to monitor, manipulate, and spy in once unimaginable ways.

By 2015, Berners-Lee had become increasingly dismayed by how the Web and personal data were being abused (e.g., Russian hackers, Facebook/Cambridge Analytica). He founded the Solid open source project at MIT, which enables each consumer to store their data in a Personal Online Data Store (or PODS), and consumers would have control over which applications accessed data in their PODS.

In 2018, Berners-Lee co-founded Inrupt, a company with a mission to “provide commercial energy and an ecosystem to help protect the integrity and quality of the new web built on Solid.”  Inrupt has successfully raised over $46M of venture capital funding to-date, and Berners-Lee has recently been in the headlines, like:

  • Euronews, 11/21/22: “Inventor of the Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee wants to save your data from Big Tech with Web3.0
  • CNN, 12/16/22:  “Inventor of the world wide web wants us to reclaim our data from tech giants”
Inrupt & Fog Works Share a Common Vision
What Berners-Lee realized is, the Web has fundamentally created an agency problema conflict of interest inherent in any relationship where one party is expected to act in the best interest of another.  If most of our purchases, searches, or social networking is kept and de-facto owned by Amazon, Google, and Facebook, can we expect them to safeguard our data from breaches? Or consistently act in our best interests, instead of their own interest of profit maximization?  Unfortunately, the answer to both of these questions is the same:  No.

The primary (and perhaps only) way to minimize or eliminate this agency problem is to radically restructure who controls and owns the data.

In Web2, tech giants collect, control, and de-facto own billions of consumers’ data.  The collection of this data also creates a massive target for hackers.  The bigger the trove of data, the greater the incentive for a hacker to hack.
Web2 Paradigm: Consumer data is collected and controlled by tech giants.
Both Inrupt and Fog Works want to radically change this Web2 paradigm and make it much more consumer-centric. Inrupt and Fog Works want consumers to be able to control their own data and decide who has access to their personal data. Visually speaking, we both want this:
New Paradigm: Consumers control their own data and who has access to it.
Inrupt and Fog Works:  What are the Differences?
Inrupt and Fog Works have similar missions, but how we are trying to achieve those missions is different. These differences can be summarized by the differences between Web 3.0 and Web3.
Web 3.0 is a term coined by Berners-Lee.  Web 3.0 originally was referred to as “the Semantic Web,” where machine-readable data resides on a bunch of computers with APIs, and automatic machine-to-machine communication could occur. But much (or most) data on the web isn’t really machine-readable. So, per Berners-Lee, the definition of Web 3.0 has evolved into Inrupt’s vision, where:
  1. Every individual and organization stores and controls their own data store.
  2. There is no one central controlling node, single point of failure, or “kill switch.”
  3. Individuals/organizations can access their own data thru a global login ID.
  4. Has a common universal API, so that any app can pull data from any source (with proper credentials and authentication).
  5. Doesn’t rely on cryptocurrency or the blockchain. Notably, Berners-Lee has been very skeptical of the blockchain.
Fog Works is a Web3 company, not a Web 3.0 company. Our goal — similar to Inrupt’s, with a few implementation differences (in italics) — is to create an internet where:
  1. Every individual and organization stores and controls their own data store.
  2. There is no one central controlling node, single point of failure, or “kill switch.”
  3. Individuals/organizations can securely access their own data.
  4. Users can publish private, semi-private, and public data, and apps can write proprietary APIs to authenticate and give partners appropriate CRUD permissions.
  5. Blockchain is used as a enabling technology to (1) help achieve full decentralization of both data and applications (2) establish data ownership and provenance; and tokens (i.e., cryptocurrency) are used to incentivize behavior across millions of nodes to achieve full decentralization and reliable data backup/replication.
In other words, Fog Works isn’t a crypto-only company.
Fog Works — like Tim Berners-Lee and Inrupt — is trying to save you and your data from Big Tech. Blockchain and crypto are how we’re saving you from Big Tech. We’re doing this with a suite of apps and devices, like Foggie, our all in one Web3 virtual appliance.


Foggie: a virtual device that saves you & your data from Big Tech


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