The Internet's original source code is going up for auction on Sotheby's as an NFT this month

The Internet's original source code is going up for auction on Sotheby's as an NFT this month
Sir Tim Berners Lee, the father of the world wide webSotheby's
  • Tim Berners Lee is auctioning the original source code used to create the world wide web at Sotheby’s from June 23 to June 30.
  • Titled ‘This Changes Everything’, bidding for the non-fungible token (NFT) will begin at $1000.
  • The NFT contains 9,555 lines of code that encompass the three languages and protocols that remain fundamental to the World Wide Web today — HTML, HTTP, and URIs.
Tim Berners Lee, the man often referred to as the father of the modern-day internet, is selling the original source code he used to create the world wide web at a standalone auction by Sotheby’s.

The British computer scientist, who was knighted for his feat, is giving everyone a chance to own the code that started it all in what is perhaps the most significant use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) so far.

“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."

Tim Berners Lee said in a statement

The auction will include four elements — the original time-stamped files containing the source code, an animated visualization of the code, a digital poster that was created using the original Python files of the code, and a letter from Lee reflecting on the code.

All of them will be up for grabs between June 23 to June 30.

“For me, the best bit about the web has been the spirit of collaboration. While I do not make predictions about the future, I sincerely hope its use, knowledge and potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation, that we cannot yet imagine,” said Lee.

The building blocks of the World Wide Web as an NFT

The files referenced by Lee’s NFT contain code with approximately 9,555 lines. And, within these lines lie the building blocks of the three languages and protocols that remain fundamental to the World Wide Web today, three decades after its inception.

This includes HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), and URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers), as well as original HTML documents that instructed early web users on how to use the application — aka the original ‘how to’ guide on using the internet.

“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,” Lee remarked.

What is an NFT?

Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, are similar to cryptocurrencies but with one important difference, which is that they aren’t ‘fungible’. That means one NFT cannot replace another on the blockchain, making them digital equivalents of a land deed, and perfect for signifying ownership of digital items.

Sotheby’s NFT sale is based on the Ethereum blockchain, which means a buyer will be able to take the platform’s cross-platform capabilities in the future.

Lee’s interest in NFTs will lend more credence to blockchain-based technology, which has been gaining steam recently. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey had sold the first tweet ever for over $2 million earlier in the year, while digital artists Grimes and Beeple have also sold digital artworks for millions of dollars.

While bidding for the Internet’s source code — titled ‘This Changes Everything’ — begins at $1000, it could fetch millions over the weeklong auction too.

Auction houses and NFTs

While auction houses have held digital auctions for a long time, NFTs are a new arena for them, one that allows expansion to a whole new world in a way.

Sotheby’s announced a tie-up with crypto exchange Coinbase earlier this year, allowing it to accept payments in cryptocurrency. The sale of Lee’s treasured archive is the third NFT auction that the 277-year-old auction house has undertaken. It sold artworks by digital artist PAK for $16.8 million in April, and another collection called ‘Natively Digital’ went for $11.8 million earlier this month.

Sotheby’s isn’t the only large auction house taking interest in the industry either. British auction house Christie’s had sold digital art from artist Beeple for $69 million in March. Phillips, another British auction house, had also sold an NFT for $4.1 million in April.

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