Send in your ideas. Deadline October 1, 2024
Source code :
Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2020-10
End: 2022-10
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Services + Applications


Queries in a pod

Solid-Search aims to provide an open source module that adds full-text search functionality to Solid pods. Solid is an emergent specification initiated by the inventor of the World Wide Web, sir Tim Berners-Lee. Solid aims to decentralize the web by decoupling applications from databases by introducing Solid Pods (personal online datastores that are in full control of the data owner). Having a way to search through your personal data on your Solid Pod is a must-have for the project to become truly successful. However, this requires technology that does not exist yet: a full-text search interface that works with schema-less RDF data. In order to maximize adoption and retain a modular, open approach, we will standardize the way in which data changes are described. By doing so, it will be relatively easy to introduce new search / query systems (such as search by location). The project will will create the open source search back-end, improve linked data synchronisation specs, link the module to two solid implementations, create a front-end for end-users, and write a tutorial for adding data sources.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

In the 'real world', you instinctively know what information you should keep behind locked doors and what is safe to share. Your bank statements are stored in a folder somewhere in the attic instead of leaving them laying around on your kitchen table. You do not tell random people on the street what your phone number is, or where your children go to school. In the virtual world, this type of common sense can work differently. Users are quicker to trust service providers to keep their personal data safe from theft and prying eyes, and do not always see the dangers of storing passwords in an online text file, or sharing sensitive financial documents via email. The dangers are unmistakably there, but until someone close to you suffers the consequences of a hack or a privacy breach, the risks of online data storage are vague and its convenience is too tempting to pass up. People are accustomed to easy, accessible and convenient online tools and services. More private and secure open-source alternatives should not exclude users because of an overly technical setup or incompatibility with existing proprietary solutions.

Solid (or Social Linked Data) is a new approach to protecting personal data initiated by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web and developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The project aims to give users back full control over their personal data, which they can store in personal online data stores (or pods) and then give applications that run on the Solid platform access rights as they see fit. Users always retain ownership over their data, decide for themselves where it is stored and can change the permissions of any application that can access the data. Eventually the Solid ecosystem should offer decentralized and user-centric alternatives to centralized social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etcetera.

Convincing people to switch to Solid will take more than just telling them privacy horror stories. You cannot (and should not) scare someone into using your product, no matter how good your intentions might be. The alternative should be as good or even better than the original and switching should be easy and painless. Search and discovery is an important if not vital part of this: you need to be able to easily look for and find your data on a whim when you need it. Solid-Search will lay the groundwork for intuitive search that matches the unique set up of Solid. New search tools and interfaces can then be easily made and put on top of Solid Pods, making this the preferred way of storing and managing your data securely and accessibly.

Run by Ontola

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.