Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee is on a hiring spree

Inrupt, the disruptive internet start-up founded by Tom Berners-Lee, has announced it is expanding its operational team as it pursues the redistribution of power in the internet era.

After inventing the world wide web in 1991, Berners-Lee (pictured) has been on somewhat of a crusade in recent years, heavily criticising the corporate nature of an invention which was intended to empower society. Inrupt is Berners-Lee’s answer to the unsatisfactory position.

“I’ve always believed the web is for everyone,” Berners-Lee said when launching the business. “That’s why I and others fight fiercely to protect it.

“The changes we’ve managed to bring have created a better and more connected world. But for all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.”

With the creation of an open-source project known as Solid, the Inrupt team hope to give the user a choice about where data is stored, who can access this information and what applications are used. The objective is to give the user the defining voice in how data is used, and in turn, eroding the power and influence of the corporations who have benefitted so greatly from the rise of the internet.

With Inrupt providing commercial energy and an ecosystem to help develop Solid, Berners-Lee has now announced a string of new hires to help drive the company forward.

Bruce Schneier has joined as Chief of Security Architecture, while Davi Ottenheimer has been appointed as VP of Trust and Digital Ethics. Osmar Olivo and Emmet Townsend will act as the VP’s of Product and Engineering respectively, adding a significant amount of weight to the operational team.

“Joining Inrupt is one of those rare opportunities to build something that will change the everyday lives of billions of people,” said Olivo. “The world is changing, and existing technologies aren’t designed to solve these kinds of problems. Everyone else is retrofitting for a safer world, Inrupt is building one.”

While the objectives of Inrupt might be considered aggressive by some in the industry, there is certainly some interest in the work. Glasswing Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm based in Massachusetts, has invested in Inrupt, while the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is working alongside Inrupt to create an ‘Early Years’ app that digitises the paper-based assessments currently used to review a child’s development up to the age of 2.5 years.

Inrupt certainly has the cash and the PR potential to make a dent in the technology status quo, and now it seems to have the muscle with these new employees. The issue which remains is whether this project can make the transition from an academic dream through to a commercial reality.

This is where critics have focused their attention to date. Berners-Lee’s criticism of the status quo is of course very timely, GDPR and California’s privacy laws pay homage to the same issues, but the question is whether an idea which could be viewed as revolutionary gains traction in the real world. Universities are full of blue-sky thinking innovators who have an idea which can change the course of history, but the truth is few are designed to accommodate the nuances of reality. Only time will tell to which column Inrupt falls into.