When the inventor of the World Wide Web tells you the system is very broken, people tend to listen.
What was supposed to be an open and collaborative platform has been transformed, in Sir Tim Berners-Lee view, into something which manipulates people and is often not to be trusted.
This dark view of the web, part of a keynote session from Berners-Lee during the Amadeus T3CH event in Madrid, Spain, this week, is far from how it started with people having their own sites and linking to other blogs they liked, he says.
“I would make a blog as good as possible, people would reward me for it by linking to it. The blogosphere spread good links by curation and humanity became this wonderfully collaborative space.”
But somewhere along the way, things went wrong, with Berners-Lee referring to what kids read today on social networks as “determined by algorithms.”
He questions whether the advent of the ad-based model was the internet’s "biggest sin."
It was not all doom and gloom, however, with Berners-Lee leading an initiative at MIT called the Solid Project.
He describes it as ”re-decentralization,” where consumers get back control of their data, can store it securely in a Personal Online Data store (POD) or in other places, such as Dropbox, and then decide who has access to it.
What it means for the travel industry
For travel, he envisions storing all his data, from passport details and past purchase behavior to food preferences, previous trip highlights and images, on a Solid Pod.
Trusted travel companies would then be given access to the data, could combine it with other knowledge information such as demographics, and come up with trip recommendations.
In addition, apps storing the data would be compatible, from a technological point of view, with apps allowed to access it, as both would be developed using the Solid platform.
The computer scientist and engineer, who worked on the protocols that underpin the web at CERN in Geneva, says: “If you write a program which respects the user, the user will allow you to access their data.
"We’ve made it so that by default, data goes into a Solid Pod, so the privacy thing has been turned upside down or actually the right way up.”
Berners-Lee suggests the apps would be paid for so that people end up with “something that won’t spy on me or abuse my data.”
He adds that it would be a win-win for consumers and the industry.
“It’s an app that works for me and makes it easy for me to find that next vacation. It’s very precise because it has so much data that you don’t have.
"The industry becomes more efficient because we have apps that represent people as well as apps that represent airlines, and then they talk to each other and end of up sharing a lot of the information between each other once they have established that trust.”
In a final hint that change is coming, Berners-Lee says that the “days are numbered” for anything not delivering value to consumers “no matter what the business model or revenue-generating model.”
* This reporter's attendance at the event was supported by Amadeus.