Online platforms without backends

Say what? An online platform without a back-end? How is that even possible?

Well, many of our customers do not require a backend because they choose to rely on personal online data stores.

Before we delve deeper into the details, let us first explore a few things…

Why would you even want to build an online platform without a backend?

There are several reasons to build your online platform on personal data vaults and choose to drop your backend:

  • Reduce your time to market
    By not having to develop a backend yourself, you can focus on your frontend. This speeds up development big-time.
  • Reduce liability
    No backend means no storage of personal data. This means that you don’t have to worry so much about data breaches and privacy compliance.
  • Give your users ownership over their data
    By using personal data vaults instead of a (full-fledged) backend, you give your users ownership over their data. Many of our customers do this to get a competitive edge.

Isn’t there any downside then?

Yes, there is. When your platform stores the data about your users into their personal data vaults, they can easily reuse this data at other parties.

However, in practice, this actually creates business opportunities like being able to monetise the authenticity of data.

Why haven’t we actually seen many platforms without a backend?

Personal data stores are not new. Just think about Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, etc.

If you could replace or at least downscale your platform’s backend by relying on personal data stores, why don’t we see this more often?

“There are three reasons” says prof. dr. Tom Haegemans, Co-founder and CTO of Digita. “A first reason is that, up until recently, there was no syntactic standard for exchanging personal data with your users. A second reason is that all of the personal data stores were actually meant to store unstructured data (i.e. files) rather than structured data (like in a database). And, a third reason is that you had to know your users’ login methods up front”.

Imagine that your platform has to support different data vaults such as Dropbox, Google Drive etc and make sure that those data vaults are performant enough to make sure your platform keeps working.

To reduce or to replace a platform’s backend, we need an open standard for data vaults in which applications can store structured data and one can exchange data with others. “Much like email, but for exchanging data instead of exchanging messages” says prof. dr. Haegemans.

WebID: Your next generation email address

This is where Solid and Web 3.0 provide a solution.

Solid is a standard for personal data exchange and leads to Web 3.0. Solid is not based on blockchain technology, but relies on tried-and-tested web technology.

On the Solid-based Web 3.0, your platform and users each get a WebID. WebIDs are used to exchange data in a standardised way.  Just like email addresses enable you to exchange messages in a standardised way. If your users would each have their own WebID, they can share their data with the WebID of your platform or any other platform that follows the Solid standard.

On the next generation web, your users login with their WebID. Your platform allows them to login with the method of their choice. When logged in, you can access the data in their vault that they’ve given access to.

But, how does a WebID relates to a personal data vault, how does it allow you to store structured data and how does it let your users choose their own login method?

Solid defines both the rules to standardise data vaults in which you can store structured data (like a database) and login methods. This allows you to connect multiple of such data vaults and login methods to your WebID.

Each of your users has his or her own WebID just like they have their own email address. When they have a WebID, they can choose to connect multiple data vaults and login methods.

With Solid and Web 3.0, your platform is able to (at least partially) rely on personal data stores as a backend because data exchange is standardised, Solid data vaults can contain both structured and unstructured data and you don’t have to choose which login methods you want to support up front.

Yet, up until now, it was hard to get a WebID and participate in Web 3.0.

Digita’s use.id

Digita has designed use.id so people and platforms can easily participate in Web 3.0.  

Digita’s use.id allows you to easily create WebIDs for your platform and your users.

use.id does not only provide WebIDs, but is also a complete solution for each type of participant. For example, platforms can use use.id’s API to easily create a use.id account for their users. People can easily manage their data vaults, login methods, data and authorisations. And, in addition, your platform can easily synchronise, manage and query the data and metadata that was shared with you.

This way, you can focus on your frontend, reduce your time to market and mitigate your liability whilst giving your users ownership over their data.

Continue reading