Tim Berners-Lee Building Inrupt to Fix the Web—Will Users Come?

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figure out a “sustainable business model” focused on “value-added services” that enhance Solid’s open-source tools. That’s a playbook he’s had success with at Acquia, which builds software products and services on top of Drupal, primarily to help businesses with marketing. Buytaert thinks Inrupt could concentrate on digital marketing applications as well.

“Whatever they decide to focus on, I believe they are onto something important that could be a foundational component of the future Web,” Buytaert wrote. “However, it takes a lot more than a good idea to build a successful company.”

Meanwhile, of course, the tech giants aren’t going to sit idly while a startup like Inrupt tries to upend their businesses.

“Large entrenched interests who would be disadvantaged by efforts to disaggregate or lock down personal data are going to fight this idea—it raises their costs and potentially marginalizes their business models,” Ackerman says.

One tactic the big companies might use is to “pour money into tools that make their environment more appealing to developers, and thus siphon away potential coding energy” from Solid, says Nathaniel Borenstein, an e-mail pioneer and the chief scientist at e-mail security firm Mimecast (NASDAQ: MIME).

He says he agrees in principle with Berners-Lee’s solutions for the Web’s flaws and thinks Solid’s technology is more than viable. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s likely to work,” he says in an e-mail to Xconomy. “The people with tens of billions of dollars will spend enough to find a way—any way—to crush the people with thousands of dollars like bugs.”

It’s hard to believe a seasoned entrepreneur and executive like Bruce, who has led five startups to date, isn’t thinking about how Google and Facebook might react to Inrupt if the fledgling company picks up momentum. But he doesn’t view the situation as a war pitting Inrupt versus the tech giants.

“We’re not building something because of them,” Bruce says. “We’re building what we believe is right and proper for everybody. How will [Google and Facebook] react? I don’t know. We’re not asking their permission to do this. But we’re not discouraging them from participating.”

[Xconomy’s Greg Huang contributed to this report.]

[Top photo shows Berners-Lee speaking at the Southbank Centre’s Web We Want Festival in September 2014. Photo by Belinda Lawley, uploaded to Flickr by the Southbank Centre and re-published here under a Creative Commons license.]

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