Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, is auctioning off his invention’s source code as an NFT.
Although the groundbreaking code has long been in the public domain, the British computer scientist has now authorized the sale of a single edition of his original time-stamped files.
Comprising over 9.500 lines of code, the files contain the basis of the languages and protocols underpinning the internet as we know it: Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Universal Document Identified (URI).
They are being sold alongside an animated visualization of the code and a digital “poster” that is “signed” by Berners-Lee via a graphic signature. The winning bidder will also take home a letter, written by the computer scientist, in which he reflects on the code and its creation.
“It has been fun to go back and look over the code,” the letter reads.
“It is amazing to see the things that those relatively few lines of code, with (the) help of an amazing growing gang of collaborators across the planet, stayed enough on track to become what the web is now.
Initially designed to help scientists collaborate, his invention soon expanded beyond the academic world. There are now over 4.6 billion active internet users in the world.
Sotheby’s, which is organizing the sale, described the code as the “first digital-born artifact” ever to come to auction. The auction house’s global head of science and popular culture, Cassandra Hatton, said the sale offered a chance to “own” part of a technological development that heralded a “paradigm shift” for humankind.
“I’ve been trying to come up with something comparable,” she said on the phone from New York. “I thought maybe the theory of relativity, heliocentrism, the printing press, light bulbs or the combustion engine. But I think that this is a much bigger thing.
“Light bulbs were an improvement on candles, the combustion engine as an improvement of steam engine, but with the World Wide Web, it was something entirely new.”
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