World Wide Web's original source code NFT sells for US$5.43 million at auction

It's the latest of a series of multi-million dollar deals for digital versions of iconic moments.
It's the latest of a series of multi-million dollar deals for digital versions of iconic moments Photo credit: Getty Images

A non-fungible token (NFT) of the code that first created the World Wide Web has fetched US$5.43 million at a Sotheby's auction.

The web was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, which led to the ubiquitous internet we use today.

Entitled 'This Changed Everything', the single NFT lot included original archived date and time-stamped files with nearly 10,000 lines of code, an animated visualisation of the code being written and a letter from Berners-Lee reflecting on the process.

NFTs are digital assets that have a blockchain-based digital server allowing for verification of ownership. 

The buyer of Berner-Lee's NFT will have a digital representation of the lot sent to their cryptocurrency wallet, meaning no physical object actually changes hands.

"As people seemed to appreciate autographed versions of books, now we have NFT technology, I thought it could be fun to make an autographed copy of the original code of the first web browser," the letter begins.

Money raised through the auction is going to be put towards initiatives supported by the famed British computer scientist.

Celebrities, both online and real-word, have been jumping on the NFT bandwagon in 2021.

Famous internet memes, like 'Charlie bit my finger', 'disaster girl' and 'Leave Britney alone' have all sold as NFTs, while tennis star Andy Murray and reality television star Joe Exotic have announced their intention to sell works on the blockchain too.

In early June a digital artwork, CryptoPunk #7523, a rare pixel-art character, sold at Sotheby's for US$11.8 million. That followed a Christie's auction in March at which American artist Beeple sold a digital collage for US$69.3 million

"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 prior to the auction.

"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.

"We have placed it in a public forum, we have sold it at basically no reserve (the bidding started at $1,000) and we let the market decide what the value is going to be. There have been multiple bidders who have all agreed that it's valuable."