World Wide Web inventor auctions NFT of original source code

Berners-Lee's invention is more important than the Gutenberg printing press, says Sotheby's VP.
Berners-Lee's invention is more important than the Gutenberg printing press, says Sotheby's VP Photo credit: Getty Images

Another iconic moment in internet history is being auctioned as a non-fungible token (NFT) - and there are unlikely to be many that have had a bigger impact on the world.

Contrasting with the less-serious but extremely pricey auctions for the 'Charlie bit my finger' video and of various 8-bit CryptoPunk artworks, this involves the very code that created the internet.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, leading to the ubiquitous internet we use today and auction house Sotheby's is marking that moment by selling a single NFT entitled 'This Changed Everything'.

High-profile NFTs, like CryptoPunk #7523, have sold for millions of dollars and any money raised from this auction will benefit initiatives supported by the British computer scientist.

The NFT is composed of four elements according to the auction house, and includes the original time-stamped files containing the source code and a letter from Berners-Lee reflecting on the code and the process of creating it.

"The lines of code referenced by the NFT include implementations of the three languages and protocols invented by Sir Tim that remain fundamental to the World Wide Web today; HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), and URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers)," Sotheby's wrote.

"Three decades ago, I created something which, with the subsequent help of a huge number of collaborators across the world, has been a powerful tool for humanity," Berners-Lee said.

"NFTs, be they artworks or a digital artefact like this, are the latest playful creations in this realm, and the most appropriate means of ownership that exists. They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the web."

The importance of Berners-Lee's invention exceeds that of the Gutenberg printing press and Einstein's Theory of Relativity, said Cassandra Hatton, vice president global head of science and popular culture at Sotheby's.

"Sir Tim's invention created a new world, democratising the sharing of information, creating new ways of thinking and interacting, and staying connected to one another," she said.

"This unique and singular auction will celebrate Sir Tim’s groundbreaking achievement, in which collectors will finally have the opportunity, thanks to the NFT format, to own the ultimate digitally-born artefact."

The online auction starts on June 23, US time and runs until June 30.