The Web is dominated by platforms providing functionality from Social Networking to Video streaming and Web Shopping. Using these platforms on a daily basis, we often forget the vast amount of data collected, stored and used, while that data could be useful for other applications as well. To have our data on the Web work for us instead, Solid proposes to separate data storage from application servers.
Solid introduces the concept of “a pod” as an online data space for an individual to control and manage their data on the Web. Pods form a decentralized Solid ecosystem that supports both the integration of user data for applications and services, to direct client-to-client exchange of information. This contrasts with current Web applications, where data must first be collected in centralized data silos, after which they are exposed over platform-specific APIs, with the user at the mercy of the platforms maintaining the data.
To achieve this separation of applications from the storage they use, we capture the context of the data using explicit semantics, such that they can be accurately interpreted and reused in different contexts. Through these semantics, applications can interpret data without requiring specific knowledge encoded in the API over which the data is retrieved. A key driver here is the use of the RDF as the infrastructure for capturing this semantic information. This again contrasts with current Web APIs, where data is served in formats that require additional semantics to be described in the API’s documentation. By shifting the focus to the data and its semantics, we can design decentralized ecosystems that are not limited to the constraints of specific APIs.
Ruben Dedecker received a M.Sc. degree in Computer Science (2020) from Ghent University (Belgium). He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree at the Knowledge on Web Scale (KNoWS) team at Ghent University on Linked Data, Public Web APIs and Solid, and leads tasks on cross-app interoperability in the SolidLab Flanders project. He teaches Linked Data and Solid in the Flemish AI Academy courses for for applied sciences in Flanders, and assistant teacher on Web Development and Big Data Science courses at Ghent University.
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