The World Wide Web, the internet, cyberspace or even the interweb; whatever you call it, there is no doubt that the internet has been one of the greatest inventions of our time. And now, one of the originators of the World Wide Web as we now know it, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has decided to auction the original code as a Non-Fungible Token.
World Wide Web
Sir Tim Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the World Wide Web in the year 1989. The proposal for the World Wide Web was written by Berners-Lee in March 1989 and, in 1990, redistributed it. To create the World Wide Web, he used similar ideas to those underlying the ENQUIRE system. He designed and built the first web browser for the web.
The internet we browse today is arguably possible only because Berners-Lee decided against patenting his idea. He made it possible for anyone with knowledge and resources to design their websites.
According to Wikipedia, a Non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. They are a type of digital asset designed to attest to someone’s ownership of a unique virtual item in simpler terms.
While some of the air leaked out of the NFT bubble, with plenty of controversy around them, they are a brilliant means to monetize digital art and other collectibles; to others, they seem like just another scam that gives gullible or publicity-seeking-buyers the illusion of ownership. NFTs, created on the Ethereum blockchain, have been criticized for their adverse environmental effects recently and may seem like an unlikely choice for the auction; however, Berners-Lee believes that NFTs are a reasonable means to auction the ownership of a digital artefact.
“Why an NFT? Well, it’s a natural thing to do as when you’re a computer scientist and when you write code and have been for many years,” said Sir Tim in press material issued by Sotheby’s. “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.
What's in the box?
The NFT will contain the original time-stamped files containing the source code written by Berners-Lee, animated visualization of the code, a letter written by Berners-Lee on the code and its creation, and a digital “poster” of the entire code. The code up for auction contains the fundamental elements of the web that many of us are familiar with today. The functions to parse and display HTML documents, rudimentary styling support, the HTTP protocol, and even the ability to print a webpage are all present in the code. Berners-Lee himself will digitally sign everything in the package.
While the original code alone is a tempting buy, other collectibles would also add to the price significantly; however, the buyer might face issues trying to run the very first version of the web. There is another copy of the very first code floating around on the internet (which Sotheby’s, the corporation handling the auction, says is similar to the code being sold in the NFT, but not the original), and according to CERN’s WorldWideWeb site, it seems difficult to compile it. Even if the buyer could set up the original browser, there are only a few sites that would still run on it.
All for a Good Cause
This auction will be the first time Berners-Lee would be financially capitalizing on his invention; however, Sotheby’s stated that the proceeds from the auction would be given to initiatives that Berners-Lee and his wife support.
The auction, titled “This Changed Everything, will be run by Sotheby’s in London from June 23 to June 30, with the bidding starting at $1000.
If you are interested in knowing what the buyer will be getting their hands on, you can check out CERN’s replica of the original browser.