Tim Berners-Lee's Web Source Code NFT Auctioned at $5.4 Million

Now, you can go around saying that you own the internet.
Ameya Paleja
Tim Berners-Lee during his time at CERNCERN

Following the recent trend of auctioning unique pieces of the digital world, the source code for the world wide web, commonly known as the internet, was recently auctioned by Sotheby's at $5.4 million. Earlier this year, Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet ever for almost $3 million.

Update: Critical error in Tim Berners-Lee's web code, original article continued below

Shortly after the sale, a security researcher named Mikko Hypponen analyzing the NFT discovered some errors in the code. While the bundle of items included in the auction included 10,000 lines of source code from the initial web browser, in addition to a video of the code being input into the computer, it turns out the code wasn't up to snuff. The code displayed onscreen during Sotheby's auction included some HTML-encoded mistakes — replacing the angled brackets "< >" with "< >". "The NFT consists of multiple components, and the code seems to be fine everywhere else, but the video seems to have all special characters encoded," said Hypponen in a report from The Next Web. "Such code would not work and could not be compiled."

The error could also be caused by software used for the auctioneers to pretend to type the code during the display video. Regardless, some people anticipate this actually increasing the value of the NFT. "These NFT things are all about 'owning a piece of internet history,'" said BBC reporter Joe Tidy. "So could this 'artifact' actually be worth EVEN MORE now because of the cock-up?" This could be how it goes, but it also raises the question: Why do we ascribe physical value to something that only exists digitally?

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NFT auction houses promised to offset environmental cost

How do you sell a piece of the digital world in the real world? Blockchain technology makes it possible. Called a "Non-Fungible Token" (NFT), it is used to tokenize anything from the digital world. It can be a tweet, an image, a video, a digital artwork, a GIF, absolutely anything that you think will be valued by people.  Since it is unique, you can sell it and use blockchain to keep a record of its ownership. It is not very different from owning a piece of artwork, just that it will not adorn your wall at any time. It remains in the digital realm.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the internet. In 1989, while working at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Berners-Lee created the first web browser and server. Following his lead of not patenting the technology, his employer, CERN, also put this information into the public domain in 1993, paving the way for the creation of the free-to-all, world wide web (or internet).

The NFT put up for auction included about 10,000 lines of code written in 1990-1991, a 30-minute animated visualization of the code (the video), a digital poster of the code, and a digital letter written in June 2021 where Berners-Lee reflects on his work.

Defending his right to create the NFT, Berners-Lee explained his point of view in an interview with The Guardian. "I’m not even selling the source code. I’m selling a picture that I made, with a Python program that I wrote myself, of what the source code would look like if it was stuck on the wall and signed by me.”

Running on blockchain technology, NFT's have drawn the ire of environmentalists, for the high energy usage. Auction houses involving in the sale of NFT's promise to offset the carbon emissions resulting from the creation and sale of NFTs. But the need of the hour is to do more, create sustainable crypto-art.  

May be El Salvador can help.

This was developing news and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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