The source code of the World Wide Web sold for $5.4 million (£ 3.92 million) as an NFT, making it one of the most expensive NFTs in history. Verification of ownership included a package with source code in the NFT, written by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the web, an animated video of the code, a poster made by Berners-Lee himself, and a certificate as well as a letter. Like all NFTs, although the buyer has exclusive ownership of the “digital core” of what they are buying, they do not own the copyright and distribution rights to the content.
The sale came as a surprise to many, as Berners-Lee never wanted to acquire the browser, which was launched in 1991 and discontinued in 1994. Notably, no patents have been filed for the source code, which entered the public domain in 1993. Berners-Lee said the funds raised through the auction, which was made through the online auction house Sotheby’s, would lead to an initiative that he and his wife, Rosemary Leith, support.
An NFT, or non-fantastic token, is a digital certificate of ownership that resides within a blockchain, such as cryptocurrency. As the world becomes more and more focused on online products, NFTs have often become very popular for anonymous investors. Experts have criticized NFTs and said they are terrible for the environment (because of the mining of digital tokens involved), while others believe they are easy-to-enrich-fast schemes. Regardless, many clearly believe in their value, the most expensive NFT to date sold an external $69 million (£ 50 million) with the selling price so high and by people willing to pay, it is probably understandable that Berners-Lee deserved a grant, wanted to sell the original source code.
Berners-Lee said in a statement, “The process of auctioning off this NFT gave me the opportunity to look back in time to the moment I sat down to write this code thirty years ago and go back over the next few decades, reflecting how far the web has come and where it has been possible since then.”