I recently stumbled upon Solid, a technology that claims to “re-orient the web” by allowing people to own their own data. I think it’s a great idea, but there are problems with it.
In a few words, Solid stores all your social media data (Facebook posts, YouTube comments, etc.) in a self-hosted Solid Pod. Participating social media sites just link to your data. If you delete a piece of data from your Pod, it is gone forever because every social media site just stores a reference to your data.
The biggest barrier to entry for a common person is the self-hosting aspect. To use Solid correctly, in my opinion, you must host your own Solid Pod. Solid is all about having complete control over your own data and allowing a Solid provider to manage your Pod partially defeats the purpose of the technology.
Other problems with Solid that must be addressed before widespread adoption include Scalability, Caching, and Duplication concerns.
If you are a popular social media user, and all your social media data is stored within your Solid Pod, your Pod may have difficulty serving consumers of your data. The reference Solid Server implementation is in Node.js and Node is pretty fast, but I don’t recall there being anything that allows your Pod to scale. A Pod can serving 25k requests per second may be more than enough for someone with a intermediate level of internet presence and popularity, but for celebrities it is insufficient.
To combat the scalability problem, social media sites may cache your Solid data. This poses another problem. Cached data is now no longer controlled by the owner of the data and defeats the idea behind Solid. How long is data cached? One minute? One hour? The longer the data is cached, the less control you have over it.
Duplication concerns are similar to caching concerns, but have to do with purposely nonconforming sites duplicating your content. Having control over your own data because it is all served from a server you control is possible in theory, but any site that can see your data can just duplicate it. What prevents a bad actor from copying any Solid data referenced and preventing it from being erased?
So, what’s great about Solid?
All your data in one place. Think about it! Solid allows you absolute control over what applications do to your data. Imagine a single, correct repository of all your medical data. Every time you go to a new doctor, you grant read/write access to you entire medical history. Records can easily be shared between hospitals and providers because everything is in one place.
Imagine a future where all your governmental identity data is in one place. Starting a new job and need two forms of ID? Just grant them read access to your Driver’s License and Birth Certificate. New Driver’s License? The DMV already has write access to your License, so it can just update the current version.