Tim Berners Lee to auction the Internet’s original source code as NFT

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NEW DELHI: The inventor of the Internet is joining its newest innovation. Tim Berners Lee, the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is auctioning the original source code he wrote to invent the Internet, via an NFT auction that’s being handled by a British-founded auction house Sotheby’s.

The auction includes the original time-stamped files containing the source code, an animated visualization of the code, a letter by Lee reflecting on the code, and a digital poster created from the original Python files of the code, all of which are digitally signed by Lee. The auction is slated for June 23-30.

The files referenced by the NFT contain approximately 9,555 lines of code, used to build three essential languages and protocols of the Internet — Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs). Buyers will also receive the original HTML documents that were developed to help early users of the web learn how to use it.

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Lee is the most recent in a line of notable personalities who have jumped on the NFT bandwagon. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are blocks of code, which use a blockchain platform (in this case Ethereum) to signify ownership of digital items. Twitter and Tesla’s founders Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk have also sold digital items as NFTs in the past, while digital artists Beeple and Grimes have made millions by selling their artworks using the technology.

“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,” 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,” he added.

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The popularity of NFTs and pandemic-led restrictions on mass gatherings drew interest in NFTs from global auction houses like Sotheby’s. The nearly three centuries old auction house has handled two other NFT auctions that were worth $16.8 million and $11.8 million, respectively. The bidding for the Internet’s source code begins at $1000 and will be available to everyone.

“As you might expect, we’ve been watching the NFT space for some time, and wanted to enter the market strategically and thoughtfully,” said Sebastian Fahey, Managing Director, EMEA, Sotheby’s. “So, we chose to orchestrate our first sale just when we felt the market was ready for the next step. When the market really took off late last year and early this year, there was a growing sense of momentum that was unavoidable,” he added.

Philips and Christie’s, two other globally renowned auction houses, have also sold NFTs for millions.

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