World Wide Web code sold as an NFT for $5.4 million

Sotheby's Offers NFT Of Jay-Z's Original Debut Album Art By Derrick Adams & Sir Tim Berners-Lee
The source code for the World Wide Web was sold as a non-fungible token by Sotheby’s (Picture: Getty)

The computer code that provided the foundation for today’s internet was sold for $5.4 million at auction at Sotheby’s, as a non-fungible token (NFT), a form of internet certificate.

The code, which was written by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1991, went on auction on June 23 for a starting bid of $1000 – 51 bids later, and it finally sold for more than $5 million.

Tim Berners-Lee and his wife, Lady Rosemary Berners-Lee have said they will donate it to a number of charities and initiatives supported by the couple.

‘The process of bringing this NFT to auction has offered me the opportunity to look back in time to the moment I first sat down to write this code thirty years ago, and reflect on how far the web has come since then, and where it could go in the decades to come,’ Sir Tim said in a statement.

What is an NFT?

NFT stands for non-fungible token.

Things that are fungible can be swapped for an asset of the exact same type and value – traditional currencies such as the pound work like this. When something is non-fungible, it cannot be changed this way because it is unique.

Think of it like a famous painting or a rare trading card – there will only be one original, no matter how many copies are made.

An NFT is a distinct cryptographic token that cannot be replicated, which acts as a certificate of ownership for virtual items, and it’s stored on something called the ‘blockchain’.

The blockchain, though wrapped in complicated maths and terminology, is a publicly available document that proves no two NFTs are the same. If you own an NFT, it’s indisputably yours.

Most NFTs are some kind of digital artwork, like photos, videos, GIFs, or music. But in theory, anything digital can be turned into a NFT.

‘I am thrilled that the initiatives Rosemary and I support will benefit from the sale of this NFT. I want to thank everyone that has worked on this project at Sotheby’s and the Crypto Community for your help and support.’

The winner, who has chosen to remain anonymous, will receive four components as part of the sale: a silent video of the code being written, line by line; a picture of the code in full, the code itself in file format and a letter from Sir Tim as well.

‘It has been fun to go back and look over the code,’ Sir Tim wrote.

Sir. Tim Berners-Lee Attends Campus Party Italia 2019
Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the file sharing protocol known as the World Wide Web in 1991 (Picture: Getty)

‘It is amazing to see the things that those relatively few lines of code, with a help of an amazing growing gang of collaborators across the planet, stayed enough on track to become what the web is now.

‘I have never once felt I could relax and sit back – as the web was and is constantly changing. It is not yet the best it can be: there is always work to be done!’

The number of documents and artworks being sold as NFTs has rapidly increased in recent months – with major auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s getting involved.

In March of this year, a digital collage was sold by American artist Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, was sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million, the third most expensive artwork of all time.

While some observers have claimed a drop-off in interest since then, Sir Tim’s sale has shown the NFT craze is still alive and well.

‘This unique auction marked the first time a digital-born artefact has ever been offered for sale at Sotheby’s, and this has to be the ultimate example of its kind – one minted by Sir Tim himself, a legend in the digital realm and far beyond, that relates to the most important invention of our era,’ Cassandra Hatton, VP, Global Head of Science & Popular Culture at Sotheby’s, said.

Sotheby's Offers NFT Of Jay-Z's Original Debut Album Art By Derrick Adams & Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Established auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s have been selling NFTs (Picture: Getty)

‘The huge reception we have in response to the auction is a fitting tribute to the genius of a man who changed our world forever.’

NFTs are typically stored on the Ethereum blockchain, the second-largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at the international particle accelerator CERN.

Born in London, Berners-Lee laid the foundation for the internet as we know it today, revolutionising the sharing and creation of information.

He published his landmark paper, ‘Information Management: A Proposal’, in 1989, and subsequently founded the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organisation for the internet.

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