Original world wide web source code NFT sold for $5.4m

1 Jul 2021

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. Image: drserg/Depositphotos

The NFT includes more than 9,000 lines of code written between 1990 and 1991 and a 30-minute animated visualisation of the code.

An NFT of the original source code for the world wide web, written by its inventor Tim Berners-Lee, sold for $5.4m in an online auction yesterday (30 June).

The auctioned NFT includes 9,555 lines of original world wide web code, an animated visualisation and digital poster of the code, and a digital letter written by Berners-Lee.

When the auction was first announced, the so-called ‘father of the web’ said it felt like the “natural thing to do” as a computer scientist. “It feels right to digitally sign my autograph on a completely digital artefact.”

An NFT, or non-fungible token, is unit of data on a digital ledger, verified using blockchain technology. It can be used to represent a unique digital item such as photo files, video clips or even tweets.

‘They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the web’
– TIM BERNERS-LEE

The world wide web application was invented in 1989, allowing users to create and navigate links between files across a network of computers.

Three decades after Berners-Lee’s invention, there are an estimated 1.7bn websites being accessed by 4.6bn people around the world.

From the start, Berners-Lee has been adamant that the web is for everyone. Marking the web’s 30th anniversary in 2019, he spoke about the importance of ensuring the web is used for good.

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“Given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for the better in the next 30. If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web,” he said.

The growth of NFTs

Money raised from the NFT auction will be donated to initiatives supported by the computer scientist and his wife.

Berners-Lee said NFTs are playful creations and “the most appropriate means of ownership” for the source code. “They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the web,” he said.

NFTs have been skyrocketing in popularity this year, with the help of big tech figures such as Tesla founder Elon Musk and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

While Musk offered to sell one of his tweets as an NFT, he later backed out of his plans.

But Dorsey did go ahead with his own NFT sale, auctioning off his first ever tweet for $2.9m on Valuables, an online market for buying and selling tweets.

Other high-profile NFT sales include a piece of art that was bought for more than $69bn in the form of an NFT image file and a ‘digital home’ that sold for $500,000.

Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com