The WEB INVENTOR & the plan to save it

Sir. Tim Berners-Lee , Source:

Sir. Tim Berners-Lee, Source:

On the 28th September 2018, Facebook announced that  account entry keys of at least 50 million Facebook users had been stolen in the largest hack in the company’s 14-year history.

The Facebook hack exposed major vulnerabilities about the web. Hackers stole Facebook access tokens which are equivalent of digital keys to Facebook account. The tokens would allow hackers to gain full control of users Facebook accounts. What is worse about this particular Facebook hack is that it’s not only limited to Facebook but had the potential of affecting other websites that use Facebook login to access them.

The Facebook breach  reminds us of a catastrophic attack on Yahoo that was disclosed in 2016. Yahoo said at the time that attackers had gotten access to the company’s code and used it to forge 32 million access tokens like those stolen from Facebook.

Lack of security on the web is something that can no longer be sustained if we are to truly build sustainable economies. It is something that requires serious attention and action by individuals, businesses, cities and countries.

One person who brought us the web, Sir. Tim Berners-Lee is doing something about this global problem.


During the first week in October 2018  he announced that he was taking a break from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to focus on a startup that he has been building, in stealth mode, for the past nine months. This week Sir. Tim Berners-Lee launched, Inrupt, a startup that he believes will decentralize the web and take back power from the forces (such as Facebook and Google)  that have profited from centralizing it.

This is an important development for the web. This is partly because, at the root of the challenges with the web today is the fact that users do not have control over their data. The recent hack with Facebook would have not been possible if people had full control of their data.

Sir. Berners-Lee through Inrupt which is developing a platform called Solid is planning to change this situation. According to Sir. Berners-Lee, Solid will give every user a choice about where data is stored, which specific people and groups can access select elements, and which apps you use. It will allow you as the user, your family and colleagues, to link and share data with anyone. It will allow people to look at the same data with different apps at the same time.

The inventor of the web has been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web. Solid changes the current model  where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants (such as Facebook and others) in exchange for perceived value.

The initiative by Sir. Tim Berners-Lee has a potential to solve the web trust problem.

According to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, people want to have a web they can trust. He believes that people want apps that help them do what they want and need to do - without spying on them.


Whilst the inventor of the web is working on the solution to the challenge brought to society by companies such as Facebook and others it is important that individuals, businesses and countries take action. It is clear that internet giants are not in this game to save society and no amount of law such as the GDPR and POPI will safeguard users of the web from abuse. Companies need to consider appointing Chief Cyber Security Officers to embed security strategies within businesses. Countries need to take a firm stand against companies that are mishandling the citizens data.

Kay Ann