Sotheby’s to auction off Tim Berners-Lee’s original WorldWideWeb code

The original World Wide Web code that revolutionised internet and our society is now for sale as part of an NFT- This Changed Everything, 32 years after it was first proposed 

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee, courtesy- Financial Times

The NFT phenomenon continues to grow, as the original source code for the World Wide Web that was written by Sir Tim Berners-Lee is now up for sale as a digital artefact ‘This Changed Everything’, at Sotheby’s as part of a non-fungible token, with bids starting from $1,000. Berners-Lee, initially a computer scientist, invented the World Wide Web in 1989, which revolutionised and gave birth to the digital age wherein sharing and creation of information became an integral part of our society. It is famously regarded as one of the most paramount inventions since the printing press of 15th Century Germany.

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The auction will be conducted by Sotheby’s and will include the original code for the WorldWideWeb browser, a unique letter from Berners-Lee, a vector file that can be printed as a poster, and a 30-minute silent video that depicts the code being typed out. The profits made from this auction will, in turn, benefit the causes supported by Berners-Lee and his wife. 

The original code contains critical elements of the WorldWideWeb that we have grown accustomed to over the decades and, according to Verge.com, these files will contain functions to parse and display the HTML documents, rudimentary styling support, the HTTP protocol, and even have the ability to print a webpage.

Berners-Lee states in a press release that NFTs are “the latest playful creations” on the internet and “the ideal way to package the origins behind the web.” When he was interviewed by the Financial Times, he compared NFTs to autographed books. 

Nonetheless, whoever buys the WorldWideWeb’s NFT may face some troubles running the first version. Ars Technica highlights that there’s a an early copy of a similar source code available on the web today (Sotheby’s has commented that the code is similar to the one being auctioned as part of the NFT). So even if the successful buyer runs the original browser, they are likely to run only a select few websites that would work well.

The WorldWideWeb we use today has been made possible by Berners-Lee’s code, along with the fact that he did not patent or charge anyone for this world-changing idea. Anyone with the technical know-how (and adequate computer resources) can design their own websites within a few hours. According to Financial Times, it will be the first time he’s directly profited off his creation — although he says he won’t be keeping that money for himself.

Furthermore, Verge.com highlights a free replica that will enable anyone to see an approximation of Berners-Lee’s original browser and that you can run right in your modern web browser. 

If you’re seriously considering bidding for this NFT, the Sotheby’s auction will run from June 23rd to the 30th, with bidding starting at $1,000. However, it is anticipated that it is going to sell for much more. 

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About the author

Gandharva Joshi

Recent 23 year old MPhil in Art History and Architecture graduate from Trinity College who holds great passion for the arts, culture and heritage industries. You can usually find me painting, reading or watching World War 2 documentaries on Netflix. Contact me for any info or collaboration ideas on my Instagram- @notjoshie

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